Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance

Help us protect the past for the future.

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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 scienceand archaeology as historycan 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.


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An internship program with Utah high schools to support actual field research in Garfield and Wayne counties to locate and document roughly 50 archaeological sites initially identified in 1928 and 1929 by Harvard researcher Noel Morss.

Continue the process of acquiring thousands of

digitized photographs at the Peabody Museum

(these will include collections from other parts of the state, mostly in southern Utah).

Conduct historical research into the identities of local residents who assisted with the Harvard expeditions and identify current local residents with historical connections to the research.

Create the template for regional exhibits related

to the archaeology specific to Escalante, Kanab, St. George, Parowan, Cedar City; Blanding, Bluff, Monticello, Vernal, Roosevelt, Duchesne, Richfield, Salina, Delta and the West Desert.

Utilize ongoing investigations into vandalism and site degradation at Fish Creek Cove near Torrey as the foundation of public outreach efforts to generate local support for the project, through tours of the site for local school children, community newspaper coverage of the investigations, and the development of site interpretation materials.

Initiate the process with the Utah Division of State History and Utah Museum of Natural History of designing a traveling museum exhibit of historic and modern photographs (then and now), as well as selected artifacts, with the initial exhibit focused on the Fremont Culture of Wayne County and eastern Garfield County.



Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance is the lead partner in the CRP. Since 2006, CPAA has conducted three research trips to the Peabody Museum at Harvard to identify and acquire historic photographs, notes, papers and correspondence related to early research in Utah. CPAA will coordinate all field research and document acquisition efforts.

Utah Division of State History will provide technical expertise and financial assistance related to the digitization of Utah-related collections in non-Utah institutions. The development of exhibit content will be coordinated by State History public outreach staff and exhibit professionals at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Utah Museum of Natural History will support the project with technical staff as region-specific traveling exhibits are developed and delivered to rural communities.

Peabody Museum at Harvard University is a cooperating partner in the endeavor which will provide logistical support and assistance to Utah researchers working on the Utah collections. The Peabody Museum has also agreed to provide digitization services to the partnership at a significantly reduced rate.

Bureau of Land Management is a financial partner that has already committed funding toward baseline CPAA research into degradation of Fish Creek Cove, a site near Torrey that provided the foundation for the Fremont Culture concept. This research will continue through 2008. Many other sites identified in 1928 and 1929 by Harvard archaeologists are located on BLM lands.

National Park Service will provide logistical and financial support for field work in Capitol Reef National Park where much of the Harvard research was conducted in 1928 and 1929. The Capitol Reef Visitors Center will also host an interpretive exhibit of CRP photographs and papers, and will assist with outreach efforts in local schools and communities.

U.S. Forest Service will be a collaborative partner

through logistical and financial support for field

work in the Boulder Mountain area where much

of the Harvard research was conducted in 1928

and 1929.

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The Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance is a non-profit organization created under the laws of the state of Utah

(Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) charitable organization)