The archaeological collections size is estimated at 1.5 million artifacts. Given the nature of archaeological assemblages, which often include thousands of pieces of debitage, fragmented animal bone, and large amounts of wood charcoal, it is difficult to establish a precise count. Instead, the estimate provides a good measure of the 5,500 cubic feet of artifact collections and associated records. These collections comprise one of the largest of prehistoric and historic artifacts within the state of Kansas and include some of the best North American Central Plains systematic materials from late Paleoindian, Archaic, and Kansas City Hopewell sites.
Systematic collections are those that result from planned research projects and include associated documentation, photos, and maps. Depending on the age of the site or sites investigated, the artifact collection could contain lithic, ground stone, ceramic, faunal, floral, and shell assemblages, as well as smaller categories. The systematic collections are largely the result of faculty and staff research, contract projects, and to a lesser extent, donations. The research programs of former faculty/staff Alfred Johnson and Carlyle Smith produced outstanding collections of Woodland to Village period occupations of the central and northern Plains, while current faculty Jack Hofman and Fred Sellet are creating one of the best central Plains late Paleoindian collections in existence. Curator emeritus Anta Montet White was responsible for developing an Old World archaeological research program, with a focus on the Late Paleolithic. As outlined in the Research Projects, many contract projects and field schools have contributed significantly to the breath and size of the Archaeological collections. Approximately 30% of the total collection is associated with a contract project and owned by a Federal agency. Currently, we have curation agreements with the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City and Tulsa Districts.
The archaeological collections are in constant use for teaching and research. Faculty, staff and student research command the greatest use, as undergraduate and graduate students access collections for class projects, senior honors theses, MA theses and PhD dissertations. Students needing access to the collections and research space should work with their Advisor and contact Curator Dr. Mary Adair. Artifacts and copies of associated documentation are generally available for loan to a professional researchers or students at another institution. Prior arrangements must be made with Dr. Mary Adair for any loan.
Archaeological collections are located in two places on the KU campus. The primary facility in historic Spooner Hall has approximately 3,575 sq ft of collection and research space. Temperature and humidity are controlled by a state-of-the-arty HVAC system. Additional collections are stored in a 1,200 sq ft climate-controlled facility on west campus.
Archaeological lab facilities available to students in Spooner Hall include desk or table work space, curation and basic lab supplies, use of binocular microscopes and other equipment, desktop computers with various word and graphing softwares, wireless Internet access, a primary and gray literature library, comparative collections, and a dedicated classroom. Only classes that use the archaeological collections as part of the curriculum are scheduled in the lab.