A Guide for State Agency Managers
Many items that are important to the cultural and scientific heritage of the State of New York can be found at State-owned facilities and on State lands.
As publicly-owned properties become old, unserviceable, or unnecessary, there is an immediate need to carefully evaluate objects that might be appropriate for the State Collection. These objects may document, for example, a historic event, a contribution a specific ethnic group or individual has made to our collective culture, an insight to a now forgotten or little understood way of life, or the status of a natural resource prior to modern intervention. Together, these materials represent a rich but increasingly fragile legacy that we need to protect and preserve for future generations.
This need to protect New York's scientific data base and cultural heritage is becoming more urgent as the pace of facility development and the pressure for public access to State land increases. In certain areas, such as on public submerged lands, advancing technology jeopardizes resources that have, in many cases, been secure for hundreds of years. An important mission of the New York State Museum is to provide this protection by incorporating important objects into the State Collection, as mandated by Section 233 of Education Law.
The State Museum's public lands research and collections program is a way State agencies can work together to preserve cultural and scientific resources for all the people of New York, present and future, and can insure that access to the information necessary for expanding our knowledge will continue for generations to come.
The State Museum is the designated caretaker for state-owned scientific collections, works of art, objects of historic significance and similar objects appropriate to a general museum. The Museum also administers a permit program to manage access to archaeological and paleontological sites on State lands.
Through its research, curatorial, and educational programs, the State Museum seeks to understand, preserve, and interpret the State's scientific and cultural heritage for the public benefit. As a State employee, you can help the Museum fufill these important missions. This webpage is intended to answer your questions about the Museum's responsibilities and how they relate to your agency.State-owned Property Appropriate for the State Museum
What kinds of properties are appropriate for the Museum?
A broad range of objects may be appropriate for the State Museum collections, including (but not limited to) furniture, architectural elements, machinery and technical equipment, uniforms, archaeological artifacts, and collections of scientific specimens. Obviously not all scientific specimens or historic artifacts represent objects "appropriate to a general museum". If you have any reason to believe that an artifact is important enough to be preserved in the public trust as part of the State Collection, the staff of the State Museum can assist you in making determinations regarding the need for such preservation.
What should I do if I think my agency has such properties?
The early identification of significant objects is essential. It is best if an inventory can be prepared, even for objects that are not being proposed for disposal or transfer. When this is not possible, lists and descriptions of items being considered for disposal or transfer should be forwarded to the State Museum no less than ninety days prior to action.
The staff at the State Museum will evaluate these items, undertake field visits where necessary, and determine an appropriate course of action.
If your agency has any records pertaining to the items, such as information about when and from where an item was obtained, these records also are of interest to the State Museum, and can help staff in evaluating these materials.
Objects judged important enough to warrant preservation often need little more than protection from damage or loss in their original locations. If these items cannot conveniently be maintained by the agency that presently owns them, Museum staff can explore with you options that will permit the State's collections management mandate to be carried out.
Archaeological and Palentological Sites in State Lands
Land managers responsible for State land should recognize that collecting artifacts or fossils on public lands may require permission from the State Education Department and the agency which has jurisdiction over the land involved. Objects that may be of scientific or historic interest discovered on, or inadvertantly removed from, State lands should be reported to the State Museum immediately. By law, such objects belong to the People of New York, not to the collector.
One of the largest bodies of State land, and one in which the protection of scientific and historic sites is increasingly difficult, consists of the submerged lands under navigable bodies of water. By law, these lands are public, held in trust for the People of New York. Historic and scientific resources on and under such lands fall within the State Museum's collection management mandate.
It is critical that no collecting of objects over 50 years old on submerged or dry public lands occur without permission. While not all objects of this age are protected by Education Law Section 233, it is the responsibility of the staff at the State Museum to help determine which are so protected. Even objects not covered by Section 233 are still public property and may not be removed by collectors.
As part of their compliance with State and Federal Historic Preservation Law, State agencies often hire archaeological consulting firms to conduct investigations. Such firms may be required to obtain a Section 233 permit so that State Museum staff can provide advice for collecting strategies and processing procedures and make arrangements for curating any resulting collections. If your agency is involved in contracting archaeological work on State lands, the consulting firm should be informed about the need to contact State Museum staff regarding permits and collections curation.
If questions arise regarding whether a particular archaeological site or fossil bed is protected by the provisions of Section 233 of Education law, staff at the State Museum will provide you with that information.
Who do I contact?
If you need information or would like to consult on issues relative to this program, email Phil Lord or call 518 486-2037.