The Verde Valley Archaeology Center (VVAC) is a non-profit Arizona corporation (recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity). It is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a group of individuals with a professional and avocational interest in the field of archaeology. We value the human adaptation to the Verde Valley and feel that both artifacts and archaeological sites should be protected and preserved as the top priority. An understanding of the past is a key to developing sustainability and the Center believes that the VVAC should provide a forum for the discussion of ideas about the past, present and future.
The Center is the only organization in the Verde Valley region dedicated to the care, management and use ('curation') of archaeological artifacts found throughout the Verde Valley region. The Center's vision is to be the foremost research and educational institution devoted to the preservation, interpretation, and celebration of archaeology of the Verde Valley by creating and sustaining an archaeological center and museum where artifacts:
From 1884 to 1888, Dr. Edgar Mearns, the surgeon at Fort Verde documented every major pueblo within a 50-mile radius of the fort. He was also the first to excavate several of the sites, including Montezuma Castle and Clear Creek Ruin. In 1890 he wrote the first nationally circulated article on the Verde Valley's ancient ruins. It created widespread interest among archaeologists and was the impetus for at least two subsequent surveys along the Verde River and its tributaries.
But Mearns also began a practice that has seen most of the valley's treasures carted off to someplace else. Mearns sent wagon loads of items to New York's Museum of Natural History. The two subsequent expeditions of Cosmos Mindeleff and Jesse Walter Fewkes saw artifacts sent off to the Field Museum in Chicago, the Smithsonian and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. When the National Park Service became managers of Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot, they were forced to send what couldn't be displayed on site to their Western Archaeological Conservation Center in Tucson.
"Virtually every major artifact collection from the Verde Valley is some place other than the Verde Valley," says Jim Graceffa, President of the Center. There are many good reasons for creating an archaeology center in the Verde Valley, but the one that keeps coming up most often is the loss of artifacts that continues today. Verde Valley artifacts are in museums and universities around the world -- everywhere but here. Over the years dozens of other archaeologists have sent items to the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott and the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.
It's not just those items found in research or regulatory compliance excavations; it's also a matter of finding a place for private collections. We get asked all the time to find a home for private collections. If we don't make one, they will also find their way out of here. The drain of artifacts is one of the primary reasons the Center was created.
"I think a Verde Valley repository is an idea that's time has come," says Stewart Deats, an archaeologist with Envirosystems Management, a Flagstaff company that does archaeological excavations for both government agencies and private projects.
We define curation as the CARE, MANAGEMENT and USE of archaeological collections. Care means that you prevent deterioration; management means that collections are organized and accessible; and use means that you use collections for scientific research, public education or cultural use. While developing an accredited facility is an expensive proposition, requiring funding and full-time professional staff, it is a goal that can be worked toward as we seek to identify and protect private collections within the region.
Our effort is, in part, following the recommendations in a report prepared by the Curation Subcommittee of the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Commission. This report entitled "The Archaeological Curation Crisis in Arizona: Analysis and Possible Solutions," dated November 14, 2006, noted the lack of adequate space and funding for curation of objects and records in the state of Arizona. It was noted that a key indicator of the severity of this problem was the recent year-long moratorium on accessions by the Arizona state Museum, the official repository for archaeological materials recovered from state lands in Arizona and the only institution that accepts collections from all areas of the state. Three general policy recommendations in the Report were:
In 2014, the Center received a grant from the National Institute for Conservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct a Conservation Assessment of our facilities, policies and practices in the conservation of artifacts and museum management. The final report of the assessment noted that the “professionalism in the activities of the museum staff is very evident." The report concluded that the Center “is well qualified to be an archaeological collections repository for Federal, State, Town or private collections in Arizona."
The Center is now poised to meet its primary mission objective to stop the removal of artifacts from the Sedona/Verde Valley area and to house them locally in a new, modern curation facility.The Center will evolve with a variety of tools and services including training, research, publications, public and school programming, exhibits and internet resources.