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This report makes the case that archaeology is an important driver to various sectors of the Colorado economy with benefits reaching every corner of the state. The clear economic benefits from archaeology also translate into enhancements to the culture of Colorado, the natural environment, technological advances, and our relationship with our own history. These benefits to the state are made possible by the contributions, collaborative efforts, and leadership of local governments, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, institutions of higher learning, local businesses, and countless passionate individuals.  

The case studies highlighted in this report show an archaeological community that is adapting to a changing world and profession – one that is more inclusive and innovative. Archaeology is increasingly benefitted by a culture of volunteerism, an influx of new ideas and approaches, and stronger connections to the communities whose history and culture are being protected, preserved, and interpreted.  
This section of the report is intended to explore the future of archaeology in Colorado. It outlines the various tools and resources available to local governments, advocacy groups, and concerned citizens for supporting archaeological work and preserving cultural sites and landscapes.

We’re Just Getting Started!

This guide is a starting point in examining the myriad benefits of the field of archaeology in Colorado.  Future editions will continue this exploration and address additional topics. Whether you consider yourself a subject matter expert, an archaeology enthusiast, or a novice, your comments could help shape future volumes of this report! Visit the Contact page to submit your:

  • Additional case study ideas

  • Suggested data sources

  • Examples of how technology is changing the field

  • Descriptions of archaeology-focused education 

  • Any other topics you’d like us to address!

What's Next?
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Working toward a stronger archaeology industry starts with collaborative relationships, including partnerships with various government agencies and communities tied to the sites being studied. In a world of limited funding, evolving techniques, and a need for diverse perspectives, archaeology efforts will be increasingly benefited by strong relationships.


This section sets forth a basic framework that can be used to help plan for and implement effective archaeology programs and projects.  


Given the wide variety of tools available for preserving archaeological sites and cultural landscapes, this section identifies the range of actions that could be taken to initiate a successful archaeology project. 

Identify the Purpose.  Understanding what you are trying to achieve is an essential first step in developing an effective archaeology project, historic preservation program, heritage tourism strategy, or other effort. Consider the scope of your effort – a one-time endeavor, a series of projects, a citywide program, or something larger – and determine the purpose of the project – protecting a cultural landscape, restoring an archaeological site, promoting heritage tourism, improving the local economy, or hosting a successful event. Answering these sorts of questions and prioritizing goals and objectives can help focus your energy and demonstrate the seriousness of the effort to supporters and collaborators. 

Connect with the Community.  Gain support of the people that will be impacted by the project by engaging the community early in the process and highlighting the potential benefit for them. For example, if a community values historic preservation or is seeking to diversify its economy, highlight the ways that the effort will achieve or contribute to those goals.  Success and value do not necessarily look the same in every community, so it is important to develop metrics and potential benefits that resonate with the community, elected officials, and other stakeholders.

Understand the History.  Connecting with the community includes working closely with the groups or people tied to the landscape, site, artifact, history, and culture being explored by the effort. Support from these communities is vital to the success of the project. Archaeology efforts that fail to incorporate the history and understanding of descendants can miss essential context. 


After the upfront work sets the course for an archaeology project or program, effective approaches and strategies are important to ensure a successful outcome. This section highlights some of the methods that advocates and practitioners can use to produce maximum benefits. 

Leverage the Archaeological Community. Those involved in archaeology know that the community is tight-knit and collaborative. The archaeology community is also exceptionally passionate and engaged. Indeed, this report would not be possible without the advocacy and contributions of the archaeology community. When considering an archaeological project, reach out to the professional and advocacy organizations included in this section to find general guidance, project-specific recommendations, possible funding sources, and qualified professional partners. Local communities considering a historic preservation program or staff archaeologist should contact a community like theirs with such a program or staff member.


Use Existing Programs and Resources Where Possible.  Before pursuing new initiatives, ensure that you have explored the resources identified in this report and the many others available for archaeology, anthropology,  cultural heritage tourism,  and other related efforts. Funding sources, potential partners, and programs change over time. Even when an existing resource is not the right fit for your initiative, they may have ideas of where else to look.  


Stay  Informed.  Some of the many resources available from various government agencies and professional organizations are the latest research, contemporary practices, and ethical standards for archaeology and related fields. Best practices are constantly improving, especially in the area of coordination with indigenous communities, and can lead to more successful projects and improved relationships.  


An important role of this report is to highlight the economic, cultural, and environmental benefits of archaeology to Colorado – demonstrating the value of archaeology to daily life and encouraging investment. Individual archaeology programs and projects should also seek to highlight the benefits to the community through data collection, studies, and reports that promote the benefits of cultural resource protection, preservation, and restoration. A clear account of successes and impacts is essential to telling the story of archaeology and promoting the benefits of the industry. 

Share Successes.  This report highlights many successful archaeology programs and projects in Colorado. Many of these efforts provided the data and information necessary to understand the benefits of archaeology in Colorado. Shared achievements can fill in the gaps of this report, clarify the range of benefits produced by archaeology projects and programs, and open opportunities for information sharing, partnerships, and advocacy.  

Learn from Setbacks.  Highlights and success stories may seem like the most important part of any outcome, but successful archaeology projects and programs are built upon a clear understanding of what does not work and what mistakes were made. Evaluating projects, approaches, and programs are most effective with a holistic understanding of the setbacks and lessons learned. The lessons learned by others can help your effort avoid unintended consequences, improve efficiency, and take full advantage of available resources. Contact organizations, communities, and individuals with a similar size, mission, or location that may be facing similar challenges to share about challenges and failures.  

Advocate for Progress.  Many historic preservation programs in local communities get their start with passionate volunteers and knowledgeable champions. While the decision to pursue an archaeology project or a historic preservation program often relies on the support of elected or appointed officials, archaeologists, avocationalists, and members of the public can provide valuable information to decision-makers, especially on the benefits of archaeology.  Some projects and programs may also require raising awareness, fundraising, lobbying elected officials, and cultivating grassroots support. Buy-in from the community is essential to the success of any project or program and can help convince elected officials that certain strategies are appropriate for their community. 

Basline Data Collection
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Being the first of its kind, this report is intended to be followed by future iterations. Subsequent reports that expand upon this study and explore these topics in greater detail will be dependent upon the archaeology community continuing to collect, publish, and provide data when called upon. To support this effort, this section provides a set of indicators or metrics that grant awarding institutions, CRM firms, government agencies, museum curators, event coordinators, educators, and archaeologists can record and track that will make future iterations of this report even more accurate and impactful.


Data collection also benefits the organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals involved in archaeology by demonstrating the challenges and successes of  programs, projects, or approaches that can be used to improve internal processes or be shared in the industry to benefit the profession.


One of the most important and beneficial reasons for data collection is to show the impact of a program, project, or approach over time. Try to collect the same information in the same way to better understand when a change of approach is needed or to provide a powerful argument for why it is important to continue into the future. Explore the list of baseline data points to see how you or your organization can help make the next study of archaeology’s economic impacts even better.


Grant Funding

Grant awarding agencies and organizations can support a better understanding of the economic impact of archaeology by collecting and reporting:

  • Project location(s)

  • Project awardee (and sub-awardee) location(s)

  • Award amounts

  • Amount of award used (if different from award amount)

  • Matching funding amounts

  • Type of work completed (e.g., excavation, interpretation, education, surveying)

  • Breakdown of archeology-related and non-archaeology-related project phases (if relevant)

  • Project timeline (award date, project initiation, and project completion) by month and year

Cultural Resource Management

CRM firms can support a better understanding of the economic impact of the CRM industry, by collecting and reporting:

  • Number of employees primarily employed in archaeology (or related) work (including part-time or temporary employees designated with fractions)

  • Total combined wages earned by employees primarily employed in archaeology (or related) work

  • Annual revenues and expenses of the firm related to archaeology (or related) work

  • Number of employee days spent working on archaeology (or related) projects in Colorado (as opposed to work done in other states)

  • Average daily value and annual value of archaeology-related work and travel in Colorado

  • Annual value of grant-funded archaeology-related work done by the firm in Colorado (organized by grant funder)

State and Federal Oversight

State and federal agencies can support a better understanding of the economic impact of the archaeology-related permitting processes, by collecting and reporting:

  • Number of undertakings initiated and reviewed for each permit type (e.g., Section 106, NAGPRA, State Register Act)

  • Average cost (and/or typical range of cost) to the agency to review each permit application

  • Estimated average cost (and/or range of cost) to the applicant to complete review of each permit application

  • Metrics on the size and scope of projects reviewed to allow a better understanding of how permitting processes vary by application

Heritage Tourism

State agencies (i.e., History Colorado, Colorado Tourism Office, Colorado Department of Transportation) can continue to improve our understanding of the economic impact of archaeology and cultural heritage tourism in the state by annually collecting and reporting on museum visitation, regularly completing economic impact analyses on tourism in the state (periodically including a detailed analysis of heritage tourism), and studying the economic impacts of scenic and historic byways (as a whole, individually, and the local economies they connect) recurrently. 

National Parks, Monuments,

Historic Site, and Historic Trails

Federal agencies that manage national public lands can continue to improve our understanding of the economic impact of archaeology-related preserves by annually collecting and reporting annual data on visitation, visitor spending, employment, labor income, and secondary effects following the methodology and transparency of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS should expand its current approach to include more minor monuments, sites, and trails.


Museum managers and/or curators can continue to improve our understanding of the economic impact of history and archaeology museums by annually collecting and reporting:

  • Number of visitors (organized by type or fee paid)

  • Cost of admission (by type)

  • Number of employees (including part-time or temporary employees designated with fractions)

  • Total combined wages earned by employees

  • Volunteers and volunteer hours dedicated

  • Estimated value of financial, material, and artifact donations received 

Archaeology Events

Organizations that host archaeology-related conferences and events can support a better understanding of the economic impact of those events by collecting and reporting:

  • Event location(s)

  • Event duration (hours or days)

  • Number of attendees (organized by registration type or fee paid)

  • Number of volunteers and volunteer hours dedicated

  • Costs of hosting the event (e.g., venue rental, staffing, food and beverage)

  • Revenues from the event (e.g., registration/booth fees, advertising, sponsorships, donations)  

  • Attendee spending on lodging, food and beverage, retail, transportation, entertainment, recreation, and business services in connection with the event

Avocational Archaeology

The PAAC can support a better understanding of the economic impact of the PAAC program by collecting and reporting:

  • Number of courses offered each year (organized by type)

  • Number of participants in each course (organized by type)

  • Certifications awarded and college credit hours earned

  • Course location(s) and duration (hours or days)

  • Volunteer hours dedicated by staff or instructors

  • Cost of hosting course (e.g., equipment, training, staff salaries)

  • Costs to participants (e.g., tuition/fees, transportation, lodging, meals, personal equipment)

Archaeology Education

Community colleges and universities can support a better understanding of the economic impact of archaeology education by collecting and reporting:

  • Number of students taking archaeology (or related) courses each term

  • Number of degree-seeking archaeology (or related field) students enrolled each term

  • Amount of grants or scholarships awarded to archaeology (or related field) students

  • Number of faculty primarily employed in archaeology (or related field)

  • Number of staff primarily employed in archaeology (or related field)

  • Total combined wages earned by faculty and staff employed in archaeology (or related field)

  • Number of courses taught each term in archaeology (or related field)

  • Scholarships or grants received by the department or program each term or academic year

  • Total value of archaeology research or fieldwork conducted by the department of program each academic year


Organizations that volunteer on archaeology projects can support a better understanding of the economic impact of their efforts by collecting and reporting:

  • Number of volunteers and total hours dedicated to archaeology-related efforts

  • Spending on equipment, materials, and training for the volunteer effort

  • Spending by volunteers (e.g., lodging, transportation, meals)

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