Anthropology Cultural Resource Management
Patrick H. Garrow
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0104


Cultural resource management, normally referred to as “CRM,” may be defined as cultural heritage management within a framework of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and guidelines. Cultural heritage, in terms of cultural resource management, may be defined as those places, objects, structures, buildings, and evidence of past material culture and life that are important to understanding, appreciating, or preserving the past. CRM is similar to heritage programs in other countries, but the term and practice of CRM as defined here is unique to the United States. America’s concern with cultural resources was reflected early in the 20th century with passage of the American Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorized the president to establish national monuments of federally owned or controlled properties, and for the secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and the Army to issue permits for investigations of archaeological sites and objects on lands they controlled. The National Park Service was created in 1916 and assumed responsibility for cultural resources associated with national parks and monuments. Archaeology played a prominent role in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and other relief programs during the Great Depression, and large-scale investigations that employed thousands were conducted across the country. Cultural resource management, as it is currently practiced, was a product of the environmental movement of the 1960s, when federal cultural resources were given the same level of protection as elements of the natural environment, such as wetlands and protected plant and animal species. Cultural resource management deals with a range of resource types, and the breadth of the field will be reflected in the discussions that follow.

Reference Resources

The National Park Service, in its policy statement on cultural resources (National Park Service Policy Chapter 5) defines cultural resources as “archaeological resources, cultural landscapes, ethnographic resources, historic and prehistoric structures, and museum collections.” Cultural resource management (CRM) is more than just the study of resources, and it is important to understand the practice of CRM, the legal structure that requires and supports CRM studies, and the specialties that constitute CRM. The CRM industry in the United States is supported by the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA), which is a professional trade association. ACRA represents the entire CRM industry, and its membership is composed of both companies and individual consultants.

  • American Cultural Resources Association.

    ACRA is the trade association that represents the cultural resource management industry in the United States and Canada. Its website contains listings of cultural resource companies and consultants, as well as a discussion of the latest proposed legislation and cultural resource management news.

  • National Park Service Policy Chapter 5.

    Defines what constitutes cultural resources and provides clear policy guidance for the National Park Service’s treatment of cultural resources.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.