Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Petra T. Chu, Ph.D.


Museum, Archaeology, Anthropology, Databases


Archaeological collecting practices have created a predicament for museums and archaeological repositories that today is commonly referred to as the “curation crisis.” As new excavations continue to be organized each year, accumulated collections find themselves haphazardly stored in museums with few plans for their long-term management, care and preservation. While the existence of a “curation crisis” has been widely accepted in the United States since the 1970s, there is little agreement as to a solution that can be accomplished in a practical, affordable, and effective manner. As a consequence, it may take a long time for the crisis to be resolved.

Focusing on American museums and archaeological repositories, this thesis will demonstrate that a well-developed collections management system provides one potential avenue to resolve the crisis by allowing museums to become better stewards and caretakers of their collections and by enabling them to advocate more cogently for their care and preservation. In the course of exploring its hypothesis, the thesis will offer suggestions as to how institutions managing archaeological collections can maximize the potential of specific collections management systems.