Collections Management at Salmon Pueblo
One goal of the partnership between Archaeology Southwest and Salmon Ruins Museum involved long-term curation and preservation of the enormous Salmon artifact, sample, and archival-photographic collection. As was the case with many large projects in the 1960s, 1970s, and even more recently, little time or attention was focused on the curation needs of the San Juan Valley Archaeological Program. By 1980, grant funding on the project was exhausted with completion of the draft report. Furthermore, at the end of 1980, the San Juan County Museum Association requested from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales the return of all artifacts and samples related to the Salmon work. Unfortunately, the massive collection was returned quickly and without much concern for order.
The Salmon Museum was unprepared (in terms of storage space and curation supplies such as acid-free boxes) to receive the collection, and it is fair to say that the collection suffered because of these circumstances. Although a building was constructed to house many of the Salmon artifacts in 1985—using materials and labor donated by the local Home Builders’ Association—active preservation, conservation, and curation of the collection did not follow. Little additional attention was paid to the Salmon collection until the late 1990s. Local archaeologist Lori Stephens Reed spearheaded a volunteer effort to conserve the collection in 2001.
The volunteer curation effort was significantly boosted with the award of a Save America’s Treasures grant (through the National Park Service and National Endowment for the Arts) in 2002. The grant provided $175,000 to upgrade the Home Builders’ Association building into a state-of-the-art curation facility, to hire a curator (Nancy Sweet Espinosa), and to purchase the materials (archival bags, boxes, etc.) to properly curate and conserve Salmon’s 1.5 million artifact and sample collection. Over the past five years, more than 60 percent of the Salmon collection has been repackaged, inventoried, and entered into a Microsoft Access database. This effort is expected to continue for another five to ten years.