What Is a Traditional Cultural Property Expert?

A Traditional Cultural Property Expert works with and alongside native communities to research and preserve cultural heritage.

What Does a Traditional Cultural Property Expert Do?

Archaeology and anthropology are about so much more than researching the past for information on technological evolution, cultural sequencing and artefact morphology. In the last century or so, the discipline has become increasingly sensitive to the needs of communities - in researching cultural history and preserving identity of the ancient peoples. The built fabric and remains of their ancient culture plays a large part in their cultural identity. That is why here in the USA, there has developed a niche for a very specific kind of archaeologist/anthropologist.

Traditional Cultural Property Experts specialize in a field of archaeology that works directly with Native American and Native Hawaiian groups. They provide vital research and cultural conservation skills, promote natural boundaries and resource collection areas, and promote the importance of their most ancient or modern spiritual areas and sites. Yet they are more than archaeologists and cultural researchers. They are ethnologists and legal experts to help protect sites from incursion or development and promote cultural identity.

Traditional Cultural Property Expertise is a discipline curious to the USA that developed as a response to the addition of cultural properties to the National Register of Historic Places. The first experts entered the field in the mid-1990s and it has become an important area ever since.

Where Does a Traditional Cultural Property Expert Work?

There are very few of these experts at present. It is a small area of expertise with few openings and little in the way of data. However, as a type of archaeologist, data is likely to reflect BLS statistics in most cases. Some 28%, that's over a quarter, work in research and development of social sciences. Traditional Cultural Property Experts are likely to work in and near the communities they serve, researching archaeological and historic records.

23%, that is just under a quarter, work in technical consulting services. They work in advisory positions and consulting, ensuring that state and Federal rules on development of culturally sensitive lands (and those near to those lands) are adhered to. They may also work on site observing for anything culturally or archaeologically significant. 7% work for engineering services, typically with developers to ensure that no native or culturally important land is affected or damaged.

19%, just under a fifth, work in Federal government for associated heritage bodies. They work directly to protect and promote these cultural areas through their work at Federal agencies such as the NPS. Similarly, 8% work for state and local government.

What Is the Average Traditional Cultural Property Expert Salary?

Salary information is likely to reflect archaeological data from BLS too. The median salary for this type of professional according to 2015 statistics was $61,220. Salary will depend on level of experience and qualification, but the research-heavy nature of this role could mean higher than average salaries compared to the rest of the discipline. The lowest 10% earned $35,440 and the highest earned $97,040. However, these top end and bottom end Traditional Cultural Property Experts are more likely to have a salary towards the low-median range of the scale. The top paying area was Federal government with an average $74,860. Engineering services paid $61,070. Management scientific technical consulting was third with $58,510. State government is fourth with $56,650 and R&D social sciences (the most likely pay grade for this role) at $54,390.

Cultural Property Expertise Jobs & Job Description

Recent Cultural Property Expert Job Listings

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What Is the Job Demand for Traditional Cultural Property Expert?

As a niche area, there is little specific data. However, it is likely to reflect the national picture for archaeology and anthropology. Employment in this area is expected to grow some 4% in the decade between 2014 and 2024. This is approximately half the national average of all jobs. Supply has always outstripped demand for heritage jobs - that is the case anywhere in the developed world. The slowdown is expected to be due to emerging technologies (GIS) and the fact that non-intrusive technologies (surveying methods such as ground penetrating radar) are now cheaper than excavation. Archaeology students will find a greater focus on these technologies in future.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Traditional Cultural Property Expert?

Archaeology is a multi-disciplinary approach today with several strands crossing over into other areas. High school students should take geography and history, or other relevant humanity/social science. They will provide a good background for the study of archaeology. The latter is more traditional and the former is a growing area for archaeology as we come to understand the historic and cultural landscapes.

At college, students should study either archaeology or anthropology with minors and electives in relevant subjects such as cultural studies and American prehistory where available. In some cases, GIS will be an important minor subject to take too. There are no specific Traditional Cultural Property Expert degrees as the discipline is too small. These subjects (rather than history) will give you the hands-on skills you require for this type of role.

As you will be expected to carry out independent research, statistical analysis, report writing and other advanced skills, a master's degree is highly desirable. This is where you will be able to develop your niche in archaeology and anthropology and tailor your niche to your skills and interests. A doctorate would be preferable for roles with great responsibility and decision-making, and typically for those who wish to teach in schools, or colleges / universities.

Property Expertise - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Traditional Cultural Property Experts Have?

This is a small area with no dedicated organizations. However, the cultural studies nature of this job means the following organizations worth with people in this area, either as an overall picture, or with dedicated working groups.

  • American Historical Association: The oldest and largest historical body of its kind in the US, they have a large number of affiliates to fill each niche that makes up American culture, society and history
  • Center for the Study of the First Americans: Located at Texas A&M but operating nationally, they were born out of an anthropology group but today are a members group that provide help and support for those engaging in primary research into the first people in the Americas