Archaeological collections should be organized in a manner that will facilitate their continued use in research and contribute to their long-term preservation. Most collections submitted for long-term curation are recovered during research projects and represent physical evidence supporting inferences and conclusions reached in the project reports. The integrity of this research evidence must not be compromised by mixing materials and documents from different research projects, even through the different studies include material from the same site. For the same reason, materials from a given research project should not be divided among different repositories. The Archaeological Survey of Idaho repositories will not accept partial collections for curation. The Survey requires that all artifactual, environmental and documentary materials from a project should be submitted concurrently.
Within a given research project, materials should be sorted initially by site, if the collection represents more than one site and secondly in accordance with the artifact catalogue or in a manner consistent with the analytical categories used in the research project.
When bulk material such as flakes or sherds have been sampled for statistical analyses, the individual items making up the sample should be kept together for reference by subsequent researchers and not returned to bulk containers. Similarly, individual catalogued items selected for statistical samples should have the catalogue annotated to identify each individual item selected for a particular analysis, thus permitting that particular sample to be reassembled by subsequent researchers.
In order to provide appropriate storage for different kinds of materials, it is necessary to further organize collections into groups which require different storage environments. The following categories of materials reflect the increasing sensitivity to temperature and humidity conditions and can be used to guide the organization of collections for long-term curation:
Group A: Stable fired ceramics and stone (no salt issues)
- Inorganic architectural materials (plaster, brick)
Group B: Stable metal objects
- Stable glass objects
- Bagged Dry pollen, flotation and soil samples
- Bagged faunal remains
Group C: Worked bone, antler and shell
- Botanical specimens
- Wood, bark and basketry
Group D: Skin, Hide and Leather
Group E: Unstable (salt-contaminated) ceramics and stone
- Unstable glass
- Unstable metal
- Mummified animal remains
- Composite Objects
Items which require special storage conditions and items which are unusually significant or intrinsically valuable (e.g. coins, precious metals) should be separated from the rest of the collection and brought to the attention of the repository's staff so that they can be given immediate attention upon their delivery to the repository.