What to do with that artifact?

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural and Interpretation, and Dr. Brenda Martin, Curator, Fort Collins Museum

One of the many things we at the Fort Collins Museum do “outside of our walls” is to work with the City’s Natural Areas Program to help interpret and protect the cultural resources found in our natural areas. We have a wonderful abundance of natural areas to enjoy, and with the opening this summer of the City’s Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Larimer County’s Red Mountain Ranch Open Space, it’s very important to all of us that people know the right thing to do if they find an artifact. This is part one of a two-part series.

Line shack at Red Mountain Ranch Open Space

Line shack at Red Mountain Ranch Open Space

Fort Collins and the surrounding area have a long human history that reaches back thousands of years. Because people have had a relationship with this land for so long, evidence of their presence is all around us, especially in the form of artifacts. An artifact is an object made, used, or transported by humans, and includes things like arrowheads or tools made from stone or bone, or historical objects like buttons or glass bottles. Other cultural resources that you may come across include prehistoric stone circles or fire hearths eroding out of a trail bank, or historic structures that are at least 100 years old.

As you enjoy the city’s parks, trails, and natural spaces, there’s a chance you may find an artifact or note another type of cultural resource. You can help preserve our collective cultural legacy by taking simple steps to protect these valuable assets:

  • Leave it alone! As tempting as it is to pick up an artifact or walk around inside a structure, leave it as you found it, even if it looks as if it may be damaged. If you have a camera or a cell phone with a camera, take a picture of it.
  • Record its location. For example, estimate the object’s distance along a trail by noting its location relative to nearby landmarks. If you’re lucky enough to have a GPS device with you, record the object’s coordinates. Again use your camera to help note the artifact’s location.
  •  Tell a reliable source. As soon as possible, contact the Fort Collins Museum (970-221-6738) and tell us what you have seen and where it is located so that we can investigate under the auspices of a valid permit.

In part two, we’ll talk about the reasons why it’s important not to disturb artifacts and other cultural resources.

March 2009

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