The Capitol Reef Partnership (CRP) is an unprecedented on-the-ground public outreach and education initiative directed by CPAA through collaborative partnerships with state, federal and private entities to expose Utah school children and policymakers to the fascinating science of archaeology and to promulgate the protection of archaeology, especially in rural communities, through greater appreciation of the history of scientific research and of the museum
collections now scattered across the United States. The initial phase of the project is focused on the archaeology of the Capitol Reef, Torrey and Boulder Mountain area of central Utah where scientists with the Peabody Museum at Harvard University first defined the Fremont Culture during pioneering research from 1928 to 1931. Through scholarships and internships, Utah school children will work side-by-side with professional archaeologists as they identify and evaluate archaeology sites that inspired the emergence of the Fremont Culture concept -- a theoretical concept still in use by archaeologists 80 years later. Field work in 2009 will provide the foundation for the first in a series of region-specific traveling museum exhibits through which archaeology as science”and archaeology as history”can be returned to local communities from which artifacts were removed generations ago.
A fundamental component of the CRP is to acquire digital copies of the photos taken of archaeological investigations to Utah from the 1890s through the 1940s when Eastern universities and museums sent scores of expeditions into the American West to acquire spectacular museum collections. The photos include depictions of hundreds of archaeological sites before they were ravaged by looters and vandals, as well as scenes of excavations and artifacts now housed at various museums (traveling exhibits may include actual artifacts on loan to the Utah Museum of Natural History, as well as photographs of artifacts). "Then" and "now" photographs will be included in the traveling museum exhibits and will demonstrate the fragile nature of archaeological sites, as well as the need to prevent further degradation of a collective heritage. These exhibits will highlight heritage resources of significance to local communities. More than 500 historic images have already been acquired as part of this project.
The nature of archaeological research in the first half of the Twentieth Century was such that archaeologists from eastern institutions always hired local guides familiar with the terrain and the location of sites worthy of investigation. Oftentimes, the descendants of these guides still live in the local communities where the investigations were conducted. It is anticipated that historical research into the participants of these early archaeological expeditions will foster significant local appreciation for the history of early scientific inquiry in their communities by providing deep personal connections to the pioneering expeditions. It is also anticipated that such an effort would help ameliorate an emerging antipathy in rural communities where archaeological research is now viewed as an elitist endeavor by outsiders (whether in Salt Lake or Cambridge) to haul away local cultural treasures to distant museums where the artifacts are never seen again.
The overriding objective of the Capitol Reef Partnership is to foster greater understanding of archaeology as a science and a greater appreciation for archaeological and historic resources, especially in rural parts of the state, through a unique and holistic endeavor that will merge museum archival collections, traveling museum exhibits and opportunities for hands-on archaeological research. The ultimate object is to foster greater protection and preservation of cultural resources through public education and outreach. This partnership will be initially focused on central Utah, but will be expanded to include all parts of rural Utah.