The Archaeological Research Center is a program of the South Dakota State Historical Society. It is under the direction of the state archaeologist. The Center serves several roles in preserving the archaeological resources of South Dakota. State code requires the Center to maintain records of archaeological sites and projects. To this end, we maintain a database on more than 23,000 archaeological sites and 12,000 projects; our research library contains thousands of archaeological reports and reference documents.
The Center's repository houses artifact collections from many agencies, plus photos, slides, maps, and other records. Crews from the Center work across the state on archaeological surveys and other projects for many agencies to assist them in meeting their obligations under federal and state cultural resource protection laws. Additionally, staff members from the Center provide public outreach opportunities through excavation projects, laboratory analysis, and programs to schools and other organizations. The Center has also been a long-term partner with the Journey Museum in Rapid City, which hosts archaeological exhibits based on artifacts from our collections.
The Archaeological Research Center explores, preserves, and exhibits the archaeological record of South Dakota's human story for present and future generations.
The Archaeological Research Center is a program of the South Dakota State Historical Society under the direction of the state archaeologist. It was established in 1974 and originally located in the W.H. Over Museum in Vermillion, S.D. In 1974 it was moved to Fort Meade, near Sturgis, and in 1987 it was relocated to Rapid City. The Center fulfills its mission through several programs:
- Conduct a statewide archaeological survey. The state archaeologist is charged with conducting a survey of archaeological sites in the state. To this end, archaeological survey and excavation projects are carried out by Center personnel on various contracts with state and federal agencies to assist them in their cultural resource management obligations. Additionally, the Center conducts surveys and excavations funded through various grant sources.
- Protect South Dakota's archaeological resources. The state archaeologist works to protect important archaeological sites in South Dakota by working closely with federal and state agencies in carrying out their cultural resource management obligations. The state archaeologist also reviews permit applications for mining and mineral exploration, gravel pits, and oil and gas explorations. Recommendations are made as to what steps are necessary to protect archaeological resources. The state archaeologist also is responsible for protecting unmarked human burials and remains. This includes the repatriation of human remains to Indian tribes or overseeing their reburial.
- Maintain records of the archaeological sites in South Dakota. The Center keeps a database of information on all known archaeological sites in South Dakota. Information on sites is provided by archaeologists working on federal, state, and private projects and by individual citizens. The state files for archaeology provide the only centralized source up-to-date information for persons conducting research in South Dakota. The information stored includes a computerized database of sites, projects, and bibliographical references; files of original survey records; USGS 1:24000 scale maps of site and survey locations; and an extensive research library.
- Act as a repository for archaeological collections. In addition to storing its own state archaeological collections, the Center maintains a large repository of artifact collections belonging to various federal agencies. In all, over 7000 accessioned collections are housed at the Center. Many are small surface pickups, but many others represent the results of large-scale excavation projects with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of items collected. Along with the artifacts, the Center maintains all the catalog records, field maps, drawings, notes, and photographs from the projects.
- Promote awareness of South Dakota's prehistoric and historic heritage. The Center actively seeks to inform the public about South Dakota's long and colorful history. This is carried out through talks and demonstrations for schools and various civic organizations around the state, assisting museums in preparing archaeological displays, artifact loans to museums and other qualified institutions, and an exhibit at the Journey Museum in Rapid City.