Log in


Society for California Archaeology

Log in

SCA Orphaned Archaeological Collections Professional Services and Curation Project

Orphaned Archaeological Collection Project Guidelines

The Society for California Archaeology (SCA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) understand the importance and ethical obligation of caring for archaeological collections with respect and ensuring their availability to current and future researchers. We recognize that many collections representing California’s heritage have fallen victim to the curation crisis and have not been properly cared for over the years. Students, collections managers, archaeologists, and curators who are working on these so-called “orphaned collections” are invited to apply for support from the SCA towards cataloging and research on an existing collection.

Thanks to the support of BLM, SCA has a total of $2,600 annually to administer over the next three years. Costs supported include materials and supplies for re-housing collections in archival quality storage, wages, travel and per diem, and research access costs, such as photocopying.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Preference will be given to student research leading to a graduate degree, but is not restricted to applicants associated with a university. Recipients shall be members in good standing with the SCA
  • The collection must have been “orphaned” for at least ten years, and cannot be associated with a current or ongoing project
  • Chain of ownership of the collection must be unambiguous, with rights to study the collection granted to the collection facility holding the artifacts
  • The collection must either lack previous research on part of all of the collection, or the research is incomplete
  • The completed project must include a digital database of the material sorted, cataloged and researched as well as a full report in PDF format.
  • The SCA shall be acknowledged in any resulting reports, exhibits or other literature produced as part of the collections project
  • Grantees shall submit a report detailing the work completed 

How to Apply:

Please send applications to the SCA Business Office via email by December 15th. Applications should consist of a cover letter containing contact information and a one-paragraph summary of the project, with no more than three (3) pages of additional supporting information outlining the history of the collection, proposed research, and methods and means for circulating the final product. Letters of support are encouraged and can be submitted in addition to the supporting information. Please note that a letter of support from the collections facility, granting access to the collection, is required as part of the application. Please identify your application as such by putting Orphaned Collections Application in the subject line. The winner will be announced at the next Annual Meeting.

2023 SCA Orphaned Archaeological Collections Professional Services and Curation Project


The primary objective of the proposed project is to inventory and extract faunal and chronological data from orphaned collections of a series of prominent shell midden sites on Santa Rosa Island (SRI)  excavated from 1996 to 1999 by Dr. Douglas Kennett and Don Morris. For this project, I will inventory and extract faunal data from five large coastal settlement sites: CA-SRI-28 (1 unit), CA-SRI-40 (2 units), CA-SRI-41 (1 unit), CA-SRI-77 (1 unit, 1 column sample), and CA-SRI-96 (1 unit). These collections have only been partially sorted by undergraduate volunteers, and only limited chronological data from them has been published (Kennett 1998, 2005). The sites that I propose to investigate represent important coastal residential sites that, along with data from a previously published site that I will also prepare for accessioning (CA-SRI-97), have the potential to provide valuable information about the nature of increased territoriality and social complexity that occurred on the northern Channel Islands during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA; 1150-600 BP; Jazwa et al. 2019; Arnold 1992; Kennett et al. 2009). Furthermore, analysis of these existing collections decreases the need for additional excavation on SRI and will allow for the opportunity to accession these existing collections, making them available for future researchers. Additionally, I plan to rely heavily on existing faunal collections as the primary source of archaeological data for my dissertation research at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), and this project represents the beginning of my data collection. I request $2600 to fund four radiocarbon dates that are necessary to refine the chronology of site use, pay undergraduate students hourly to assist with collections processing, and travel to the Santa Barbara
Museum of Natural History (SBMNH) to accession these collections.

The call for proposals for this project goes out each year in October 


2020 Tyler R. Molter
University of Nevada, Reno
Santa Rosa Island shell midden

2020 Susan Gilliand and Joan Schneider
Curating the Blue Goose

2019 Koji Lau-Ozawa
Stanford University
Santa Barbara’s historic Nihonmachi (Japantown)

Elizabeth Niec
Sonoma State University
Branscomb Collection

2018 Kaya Wiggins 
Humboldt State University
Cayucos Bluff collection

2017 Sarah Heffner
PAR Environmental
Yreka Chinatown Collection

2016 Teresa Saltzman
Museum of the American Indian
North Coast Archaeology Society (NCAS) Collection

Society for California Archaeology
Business Office
P.O. Box 2582 |  Granite Bay  |  CA 95746

Contact Us:
(530) 342-3537

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software