Destructive Analysis Policy and Procedures

The Museum of Anthropological Archaeology encourages the use of its collections for research in all fields and with a wide variety of research methods. In order to maximize the research potential of the Museum’s collections, in some circumstances it may be appropriate to remove samples, conduct invasive tests, or otherwise impact the substance of items in the collections. Decisions regarding the appropriateness of such requests must balance the legitimate needs of the scientific and scholarly community with the long-term preservation of the collections for future needs—including future research needs that might be constrained by current sampling or invasive tests. Proposals from all researchers are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The Curator in charge of the materials can accept the proposal, reject the proposal or ask for additional information from the researcher until satisfied with the proposal. When the Curator finds the proposal acceptable, the Curator will present a written summary of the project to the Executive Committee of the Museum for final approval.

If the collection being requested is a Federally-owned collection, permission for destructive analysis also must come from the owning Federal agency. It is the responsibility of the researcher to contact the owning federal agency for permission prior to any work being completed. For culturally identifiable materials that fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, permission must be obtained from the affiliated Native American tribe.

In some instances, a pilot project may be required before full access to collections will be approved. This will be determined by either the Curator in charge of the collection or the Executive Committee of the Museum. In a pilot project, the researcher will be granted permission to use a portion of the requested samples to determine if results are achievable. Based on the pilot project results, the Executive Committee will then consider the request for additional materials.

Submitting a Sampling Request

A written proposal must include the following information when asking to sample an object or perform any type of analysis that modifies an object:

1. Date of sampling request
2. Requester’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address
3. A description of the project and an explanation of the significance of the proposed research (make sure to describe the research methodology and expected analytical results)
4. Types of analysis to be performed (destructive to the objects) and why they are appropriate to the questions being asked
5. A discussion of why non-invasive or non-destructive techniques cannot be used to address the research questions
6. A discussion of other possible sources of objects, and why the Museum’s collections represent the best or only source of objects for sampling
7. Sample size or weight
8. Location where the analysis will be performed and who will analyze the results (name of institution and contact information)
9. Date when the sample(s) will be returned (if applicable)
10. Catalog number and description of each object to be used in the project*
*The museum cannot and will not undertake the work of selecting specimens or objects to be sampled and will not agree to blanket requests. As a result, requests for destructive analysis will generally require a preliminary research visit. It is suggested that during the selecting process, the researcher notes how many items from a collection will be used in the analysis (i.e., 2 sherds out of 100 from XXX catalog number)

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals are evaluated by both the Curator in charge and the Executive Committee according to the following criteria:
• The research proposal is sound
• The analytical methods proposed should yield the intended results, and are the least intrusive analytical means of obtaining those results
• The proposed analyst is qualified to perform the work
• The amount of sample and number of specimens requested is necessary to obtain accurate results
• Each specimen can be safely sampled or cast in such a way that future study/analysis is not precluded
• The degree to which any proposed destructive sampling affects the specimen is minimal
• The samples will be returned (if applicable) so they can be retained for future use
• The probability of receiving analytical results from the researcher is high

The following guidelines must be adhered to by all researchers:

1. No alteration, sampling, modification or testing of objects is permitted without prior written authorization in the form of a signed Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Destructive Analysis Agreement. Under no circumstances is testing permitted in the absence of this agreement, including on the basis of verbal discussions with any staff member, curator, or administrator.

2. Voucher specimens (e.g., duplicate thin sections, powder or ground samples, and carbon samples), usable sampled and unused portions of specimens or objects must be returned to the Museum. Full documentation regarding location, extent and kinds of sampling must be maintained and provided to the Museum.

3. The researcher agrees that the Museum will receive a complete copy of the analytical outcomes (including raw data in the form of graphs, computer printouts, etc.) resulting from the sampling or testing of Museum collections. Analytical outcomes should include not only the raw results but also details regarding specific methodologies and instrumentation employed. The researcher also agrees to submit to the Museum two copies of any publications resulting from the research supported through the Destructive Sampling Agreement. The Museum reserves the right to publish analytical results, or release the results to other scholars if the researcher does not provide them to the scholarly community in a timely manner (generally three years from date of testing unless otherwise stated in the approved Destructive Testing Agreement).

4. All costs of the analysis, including packing and round trip shipping, are the responsibility of the researcher.

5. Failure to follow Museum policy or guidelines may jeopardize future borrowing privileges for both the researcher and his or her institution.