Curation Services

Curation and storage for archaeological collections

The Culture Department provides curation and storage services for archaeological collections and archives legally, professionally and systematically collected from within Washington. We frequently accept materials to be held in-trust on behalf of government agencies and Native American tribes, as well as collections deeded to the Burke, and our expert staff and high-capacity facility is always ready to provide storage, care, preservation, cataloging and rehousing of new collections on a flexible contract basis. Importantly, all of our curation services and facilities accord with standards set forth by the National Park Service in “36 CFR Part 79,” as required by many state and federal agencies and permits.

If you need to request curation services to fulfill the curation requirement required to obtain a State permit, please complete the Curation Request Form linked below. Please see the frequently asked questions below for additional information about these services. Additional details on requirements for preparation of collections to be curated at the Burke Museum can be found in our Curation Guidelines.


For more information, email Jack Johnson, manager of archaeology curation services at

Frequently Asked Questions about Curation Services

Q: Why should I contract with the Burke Museum?
A: The Burke Museum has it all: experienced staff, affiliation with a nationally recognized university, a mission to educate the public about the discipline of archaeology and the results of research in the state, expertise in management of archaeological collections and a positive history of working with government agencies and tribes. The Burke Museum has both the storage space and the work force to properly curate collections as large as the Tse-Whit-Zen village site or as small as a single isolated find.

Research access is an important component of the services we provide in our Held-in-Trust Program. As a department within the University of Washington, the Burke Museum is well positioned to facilitate access for students and other researchers.

Q: What are "Curation Services"? 
A: The Burke Museum recognizes that all agencies must account for museum holdings under their jurisdiction. We assist agencies in that effort by providing annual reports detailing the following:

  • Research conducted on the collection
  • Research results or publications
  • Updates on Burke Museum staffing and storage environments
  • An accounting of government held-in-trust property
  • Itemized inventory on a 3-5 year schedule

Q: Will the Burke Museum accept collections from private parties? 
A: Absolutely! Collections from eligible lands may be donated to the museum. Donation requires completion of a Deed of Gift form that transfers all rights in the collection to the Burke Museum prior to delivery of the collection. In-perpetuity fees may be assessed for donated collections on an ability-to-pay basis. All fees associated with private collections are considered a donation and are tax deductible.

Q: Will the Burke Museum accept historic collections?
A: Although the Burke Museum is known primarily for its pre-contact collections, we do also accept systematically collected historic archaeological collections. We currently curate a large collection from a historic work camp at Lake Keechelus for the US Bureau of Reclamation. We also curate a contact-era collection from Tualdad Altu in Renton, Washington.

Q: How do I get a letter from the Burke Museum to attach to my state permit application? 
A: The Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation requires a letter from a repository within Washington State meeting federal standards for curation of archaeological collections (36 CFR Part 79) stating its willingness to accept material resulting from a proposed project. Please use our Curation Request Form to submit a request.

Q: How long can I store collections at the Burke Museum?
A: We will accept held-in-trust collections for as long as the client requires our services. Our shortest contract to date is 6 months; our longest is 10 years, with a standard contract length of 5 years. We cannot accept held-in-trust collections in- perpetuity, as regular review of contracts is required. If in-perpetuity curation is requested, we require that the agency or private party donate the collection to the museum.

Q: Who currently has held-in-trust collections at the Burke Museum? 
A: We currently curate collections for several city, county, state, federal and tribal government agencies. The largest collection is from Tse-Whit-Zen (45-CA-523), totaling 900 ft3 of material, and is held in trust for the Washington State Department of Transportation. We have also temporarily curated collections for corporations while they investigated permanent alternatives.

Q: How much space is available at the Burke Museum? 
A: In 2011, the Burke Museum partnered with the Washington State Department of Transportation to make improvements to our existing off-site curation space. The project included placement of our existing cabinets and 64 new cabinets on compactors to maximize space efficiency, installation of a new HVAC system for a portion of the space that provides climate control for sensitive materials and the construction of walls to enable better pest and access management. The former storage capacity of 2376 ft3 increased to over 7000 ft3 , providing ample space for the new collections arising from the Alaska Way Viaduct, Seattle Seawall and the 520 bridge construction, as well as collections from projects not yet started.

Q: Who has access to held-in-trust collections? 
A: Access varies by collection; however we encourage an open research access policy when negotiating curation contracts. In general, on-site, non-destructive analysis requests are governed by the Burke Museum while loans and destructive analysis require permission from the controlling agency. Collections under short-term curation contracts are typically closed to all research, unless approval is first authorized by the controlling agency.

Q: How much do curation services cost? 
A: The Burke Museum curation fees ensure the highest curation standards. Due to budget constraints, we are unable to accept held-in-trust collections unless funding is provided to manage the collection. Please contact our Curation Services Manager with questions regarding this fee schedule.

Q: Why should I pay for curation when some museums will accept collections free of charge? 
A: Curation of archaeological material is a specialized field requiring trained, experienced staff, exacting policies and procedures and environmental controls, which not all repositories can meet. As of 2006, the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation requires that collections from public lands excavated under state permits be curated in repositories meeting the federal standards for curation of archaeological collections (36 CFR Part 79). While some museums not meeting federal standards may still be unaware of this requirement and accept collections, it is not permissible to place collections created under a state permit in such a repository.

Storage space is also an important consideration. Storage of archaeological material can often overwhelm repositories with limited storage space. Storage space is critical to all repositories and should not be allocated to collections that do not meet the institution’s mission or will drain scarce resources without due consideration. In the past, boxes full of artifacts and bulk samples were deposited at the most convenient location with little consideration of long-term accessibility or preservation issues; management of these collections was often overlooked. Today, land managers are generally aware of the issues surrounding curation of archaeological collections and recognize that responsible collections management requires allocation of resources. Archaeological collections are exhaustible resources that require the highest level of care available, something the Burke Museum can provide.

If you are unable to find an answer to your question online or want to speak further about our services, please email Jack Johnson, manager of archaeology curation services at

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