The 2023 ACRA Conference took place in Indianapolis, Indiana from September 7th to the 10th. This year several second-year graduate students taking Dr. Chadwick’s CRM II class were able to attend the conference. The conference held a total of fourteen sessions, with seven on September 8th and seven on September 9th. The topics ranged from discussions of SOI standards to the role of Artificial Intelligence in CRM. Other than the sessions, students were able to participate in a mentor luncheon, where three CRM professionals took a student to lunch. Thanks to the lunch students were not only able to network but were also able to learn more about CRM by asking questions. The students that went are all very thankful to those who took them to lunch, as well as thankful for the opportunity from IUP, who paid for the entire trip.
The first session at ACRA was an opening remark from the former Miami THPO, Diane Hunter. She told the story of her tribe, from their origin in Indiana to where they are now. This session gave a lot of insight into the region where the conference took place and the history of the people who lived there. Her talk also included the role of THPO’s and the value of consultation.
The second session was a Washington update on government relations, where Andrew Goldberg and Shawn Patch talked about ACRA’s lobbying efforts throughout the past year. They covered developments in legislation and regulations and how the midterm elections could affect CRM. They also covered how to speak up for the industry, and how ACRA members can get involved.
The third session was an interview with the chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), Sara Bronin. She started with an overview of what the ACHP and how it impacts the industry of CRM. She also explained the kinds of cases the ACHP advises on, which include cases they feel can set a precedence in the field. She also covered how recent initiatives may affect CRM, and the role of CRM firms in preserving cultural heritage.
The fourth session was on the SOI Standards task force and the recommendations they came up with for when the SOI standards are revisited. They ended up listing nine broad principles they have to guide any change in standards. The first one was to acknowledge the status quo is not an option, the standards must change. The second recognized there still needed to be standards, they do not support getting rid of them. The third asks for clarity and consistency in the new standards, recognizing it is something lacking from the current standards. The fourth asked for practical experience to be included in the standards. The fifth asks alternative pathways for qualification to be recognized, in order to include communities that may not have the resources to meet all the qualifications but have the experience. The sixth wishes to promote diversity and inclusion in the new standards. The seventh recognizes contemporary concepts of heritage and wishes the new standards will recognize heritage is not the same for everyone. The eighth asks for the full spectrum of CRM to be recognized, including disciplines outside of archaeology. The ninth asks for the SOI to have broad consultation on any changes that are made. Overall, the task force reiterated these are recommendations from ACRA to guide any changes in the SOI standards.
The fifth session discussed heritage mines as a way to store energy, specifically for storage from solar and wind projects, which is being done through Michigan Technological University’s PUSH project. Essentially, Timothy Scarlett is suggesting abandoned mines be used for pumped hydro storage, as they are already there and would take up less space than a massive surface pond for the same purpose. With this idea in mind, CRM companies can play an important role in this transformation as they are essential to the entire process.
The sixth session discussed the growth of CRM firms into middle-market firms, with the panel consisting of upper management from Chronicle Heritage. They discussed the journey of Chronicle Heritage to the middle-market, and how the growth of CRM firms like theirs can benefit the industry as a whole.
The seventh session focused on the future of CRM and the changing industry, as a way to strategically plan for these changes. This session led attendees through how to plan for changes in the industry, such as AI, remote work, and social justice. The session broke into small groups to participate in planning exercises, which were discussed at the end of the session.
The eighth session discussed academic collaboration in CRM, specifically looking at the pipeline from universities to CRM firms. With this, they discussed topics universities should teach to prepare students for CRM. They also discussed a program at Monmouth University that is creating such a pipeline from that university to local CRM firms in New Jersey where the university is located. The session then opened to questions, which led to a good discussion on what CRM firms can do to be involved with universities to help better prepare students for CRM and bring them into the industry.
The ninth session was an update from the SAA task force on employment within CRM. This session gave information on the job market and the needs of CRM for universities to meet. They discussed a recent trend in universities to cut anthropology and archaeology programs and how this could be due to administrators being unaware of the job market and opportunities in CRM, as well as the qualifications needed. The task force discusses five areas of concern on this subject and how this can be solved by both CRM companies and universities moving forward.
The tenth session discussed Airlie House and metrics on diversity. This session was an update on the Airlie House initiative, the Salary Survey, and the ACRA diversity program.
The eleventh session was a business meeting, which covered the important ACRA initiatives from the past year. This session also covered programs for the future, as well as how ACRA member firms could maximize their membership.
The twelfth session was on navigating cultural resource compliance for offshore wind. This session discussed several assessments needed for these compliance projects, as well as meetings with consulting parties and the MOA. This panel looked at challenges and best practices in the industries, as well as challenges of projects and how to deal with them.
The thirteenth session was about the role of geophysics as a tool for CRM. Within this session, the use of geophysics for phase I survey was discussed. The general usefulness of geophysics within CRM was also discussed, and those in attendance were able to ask questions and discuss their opinions on the subject. They also discussed how geophysics can be used to make a national register determination, and how they can manage sensitive sites like cemeteries.
The fourteenth session was on artificial intelligence and how it can be used within CRM. This session began with an introduction to what artificial intelligence (AI) is and some examples of programs out there today that are becoming popular, such as ChatGPT. They then gave examples of how ChatGPT could be used within the field to write reports. They did this by feeding ChatGPT images of architecture and asking it to describe them. While some of the descriptions were right, many of them were wrong and would have to be filtered too much to actually be useful. They then went into how AI could be dangerous to the field, and to be careful with the software, as the platforms are not secure enough to feed confidential information to for reports. They ended up concluding that AI may be useful for some redundant portions of CRM in the future and that it could be a very real future in the industry, but it is not quite there yet.
This session concluded the conference, with it being an overall success, not just for ACRA itself but for the IUP students in attendance. The students at IUP thank ACRA for the opportunity and hope future graduate students can attend.