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Antiquities Act Centennial March 14, 2006
by Mark Rose

An online guide to the ground-breaking 1906 act and the celebration of its 100th anniversary

National Park Service has added a "feature" called "Antiquities Act 1906-2006" to its already extensive archaeology program website. Far more than a feature, this is a mini-gateway to the Antiquities Act and the National Monuments that presidents have created using it.


The site has a clean, simple design with clear navigation. Its homepage features photographs of Montezuma's Castle, Devils Tower, the Petrified Forest, and El Morro--the first four National Monuments created, all in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Inside, in five main sections--"About the Antiquities Act," "Maps, Facts & Figures," "Monument Profiles," "Centennial Activities," and "Continuing Conservation and Preservation"--you'll find new material, as well links leading to existing NPS website resources and a select number of external sites.

"About the Antiquities Act" has a brief introduction, explaining what the Antiquities Act is and why it is important, concluding that "in shaping public policy to protect a broad array of cultural and natural resources, the impact of the Antiquities Act is unmatched." While the casual visitor to the site will be satisfied with this overview, there is also a link to a short article about it by NPS chief archaeologist Francis P. McManamon. Those wanting to know much more will find a set of links to in-depth articles about the history of the Antiquities Act and its place in cultural heritage policy in the United States. Other links here lead, among other places, to Antiquities Act pages on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service websites.

"Maps, Facts & Figures" is essentially a clickable map of the U.S. (with detail maps for Alaska and the Southwest) showing the various National Monuments, which are identified on it by number (in the order in which they were created). Clicking on a number brings up the basics: the name of the monument, when it was created and by which president, and its size. If you want to learn about visiting any of the monuments, there are links going to the NPS "Parks and Recreation" and BLM "Adventures in the Past" websites.

The site's largest section is "Monument Profiles," consisting of pages for 11 National Monuments (as of March 13, 2006). Click on one of the photographs at the top and you enter the page for that site, after which you can access the other monument profiles via links on the right side of each page. Included are the first four monuments, plus six from Chaco Canyon (1907) to Wrangell-St. Elias (1978), as well as the newest, the African Burial Ground (February 2006). The format is simple: one photograph and a few paragraphs of text that convey why each monument is of national (often global) significance. There is some overlap (chiefly in the basic description) between these pages, which were made for the Antiquities Act site, and the pre-existing NPS "Parks and Recreation" pages for each monument. Here you'll get more history of the site and how and why it was created, as well as comments by recent visitors, while the "Parks and Recreation" pages will give you information on how to visit and more details on what activities are available.

Within the "Centennial Activities" section you use tabs across the top to look at specific categories of goings on. So far (March 13), the "in the parks" pages are basically links to the "activities" page on the "Parks and Recreation" site for each of the first four monuments. Presumably centennial events will be added to these pages by the individual monuments, but currently the results are mixed. No centennial events are listed as yet for El Morro and Montezuma. The Petrified Forest activities page has none, but on its home page there's a link to a separate listing of centennial observances. Devils Tower has a number of events scheduled for June-September, but these are found on the website of the Devils Tower Centennial Committee, not part of the NPS site but linked to it on the activities page.

Public lectures and professional conferences with symposia about the Antiquities Act are listed under "talks & papers" in the "Centennial Activities" section. And links under "other activities" connect you to sites related to the centennial of Mesa Verde National Park and other topics. (Here or on the "talks & papers" page it might be useful to have links to the BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Antiquities Act pages; the latter lists a conference with the Act as its theme.) Some of the detailed articles on the Antiquities Act from the initial "About" page are repeated on the "learn more" page, but there are two lesson plans as well. Both are worth a look. One, from NPS, is about how Tonto National Monument was saved. The other, from the White House Historical Association, discusses the role of the president and the Antiquities Act (with a great photo of conservation pioneer John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt at Yosemite circa 1906).

The last major section, "Continuing Conservation and Preservation," looks at responsibilities under the Antiquities Act to curate collections and make them available to the public. Here, the links go to NPS resources on managing archaeological collections, archaeological outreach and interpretation, and the like.

"Antiquities Act 1906-2006" is well designed, and its content, often available at multiple levels of detail, should appeal to broad range of people. It is well worth a look if you are interested in the history of archaeology in the United States and perhaps for your vacation planning, too. And while there, you might click on the "sitemap." It brings up a directory of the entire NPS archaeology program website, with features such as "Ancient Architects of the Mississippi" and "The Robinson House," teacher resources, a children's section, online exhibits, volunteer opportunities, and frequently asked questions. There is much to explore on this site.

Mark Rose is executive and online editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.

More on the 1906 Antiquities Act
* An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities (full text of act)
* "A Visionary Act," Online Feature, March 20, 2006
* "A Century of Debate," Book Review, March 16, 2006
* "1906: A Remarkable Year for Archaeology," From the President, January/February 2006

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America