Managing Cultural Resources: The Northeast Information Center
The Northeast Information Center (NEIC) has been carrying out the huge task of archiving archaeological and historical resources information for 11 counties in northeastern California for more than 25 years. The NEIC is one of 12 regional information centers in California under contract with the state Office of Historic Preservation and operates under the auspices of the CSU, Chico Department of Anthropology, facilitated by the Research Foundation. Antoinette Martinez, Anthropology, is the faculty coordinator. Staff includes assistant coordinator Amy Huberland, Lucia Ledwith, Jarith Kraft, Adrienne Slattery, and Miriam Roeder.
As well as maintaining archival data for archaeological and historical resources within Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, and Trinity counties, our office provides archaeological and historical resources information to local governments and individuals with responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the California Environmental Quality Act. The NEIC also houses the state Historic Property Directory and the national and California registers of historic places listings, as well as records of historic resource inventories, California state landmarks, and points of historical interest.
The NEIC also offers a student training/internship program, providing an opportunity for students to earn units toward the Cultural Resource Management Certificate (Department of Anthropology) and the Public History Certificate (Public History Program). Once students become familiar with the NEIC base maps and filing system, they are taught to conduct record searches. These searches involve checking the NEIC base maps and historical resources files for known sites and studies within specific project areas. Record searches also include research into the prehistory and history of the project area, utilizing the NEIC reference library, historical maps, and specific Internet Web sites.
The NEIC maintains a project review program that encourages agencies such as county and city planning departments to work with our office to facilitate protection of cultural resources that might be impacted during development activities. For example, with the help of a local volunteer, the NEIC was instrumental in ensuring the protection of portions of the historical Humboldt Wagon Road, built in 1865 under the supervision of John Bidwell.
Our office also sets up agreements with Native American tribal governments for access to information housed at the NEIC. These memorandums of understanding promote the protection of cultural resources by encouraging anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, and Native American groups to work together toward similar goals. We currently have agreements with the Mechoopda Indian Tribe, Susanville Indian Rancheria, and Greenville Rancheria.
As we move into the future, the NEIC record-keeping systems are evolving to keep up with new technologies. In the past, archaeological and historical site and report information was maintained on hard-copy topographic maps; however, with funding from federal and state agencies, our office has been converting this information to a Geographic Information System (GIS) format. Use of a GIS-based system will increase the speed with which record searches can be completed and simplify the process of adding or changing data. Along with creating this GIS-shape file database, all resource records and reports will be scanned to PDF files that can also be accessed electronically. A resource (site) database and report bibliographic database will be maintained and linked to the GIS information.
The NEIC serves as a research facility for cultural resource professionals as well as students, landowners, historical societies, and other interested groups. A great deal of the information on file at the NEIC is confidential because of the sensitive nature of cultural resources, and is available only to qualified resource professionals. However, our reference library, historical maps, information from the state Historic Property Directory, and anything regarding the “built” environment is considered public information. We can be reached Monday through Thursday, 9–5, at 25 Main Street, Chico.
—Amy Huberland, Department of Anthropology