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January 28, 2009 04:45 PM

Archeology & Economic Stimulus

A South Dakota facility that deals in ancient artifacts might itself become history because of budget cuts. Governor Rounds has proposed trimming more than $300,000 from the state budget by eliminating the archeological research center.
 But archeologists are coming to the center's defense, by tying the Rapid City facility to the economic stimulus on Capitol Hill. 

The archeological research center is one of the lesser-known state agencies. It archives archeological records and research, while warehousing thousands of artifacts. Supporters hope the center can remain open, not just for its scientific importance, but also for the role it plays in construction projects throughout the state. 

The Archeological Research Center is a time capsule of our ancient past.  But time, and budget cuts, may may be catching up with the center.  Archeologists say shutting down the facility will leave South Dakota with the enormous and expensive task of moving thousands of documents and artifacts to a new home. 

"We've been dealing with that office since it was created in the early-1970s and so it would really be just one of those penny-wise, pound-foolish types of enterprises to take this out," Adrien Hannus of Augustana College said.

Many construction projects are required to get approval from the research center before they're built, to ensure that they don't disrupt important archeological sites.  Hannus says South Dakota projects attached to the economic stimulus could be in jeopardy if the research center is closed.

"What that would mean is if they disappear, then we get a stimulus package, we start to need doing these new road and bridges, etc., well, it will bring a complete halt to that background work that has to be done prior to any of these undertakings moving forward," Hannus said.  

Hannus says archeology is an economic stimulus in itself; with projects conducted through the research center bringing in as much as a $1.5 million a year to the state. 

Supporters also point to the nationwide publicity generated by the research center, including the Deadwood Chinatown excavation featured in the DVD set for the cable TV series "Deadwood." Also, an excavation at historic Fort James near Alexandria will be featured in a new PBS series this spring.

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