Seeking Tribal Representatives to Participate in Creating Federal Agency-wide Cultural Resource Spatial Data Standards


Please let me introduce myself, my name is Deidre McCarthy and I work with the Cultural Resource GIS Facility of the National Park Service.  Our office works primarily with State, Tribal and other NPS groups to institute the use of GIS and GPS into cultural resource management practices.  We provide GIS and GPS training and work closely with various groups to apply these technologies to document cultural resources throughout the US.

Currently we are working on an important project to create cultural resource spatial data standards through the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).  The NPS is chairing a cultural resource subcommittee of the FGDC whose primary purpose is to build these standards.  We are currently seeking Tribal representatives to participate in the standard creation process through a work group that will be composed of Federal agencies, State Historic Preservation Offices, Tribal representatives and local governments.  Your participation would not require travel to Washington, DC (where the subcommittee is based), but would include participation in scheduled teleconferences and review of materials produced by the work group.  We feel strongly that any FGDC cultural resource spatial data standard must incorporate Tribal perspectives, concerns and ideas and hope that your interest in the topic will contribute heavily to the process.  This important effort will have lasting impact on the exchange of cultural resource data between Federal agencies, States and Tribes who wish to share data, making that data sharing more efficient and much faster.  Particularly in times of disasters, such as the Gulf oil spill, data is needed quickly to ensure that critical cultural resources are protected.  We hope that these standards will allow for the protection of resources, security of data and improved communication regarding cultural resources throughout the historic preservation community.

<>One of the primary projects that the Cultural Resource GIS Facility has been working on for several years is the creation of cultural resource spatial data standards.  OMB Circular A-16 designates the National Park Service as the lead agency for the cultural resource spatial data theme, through the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).  Our office has been given the task of working to create cultural resource spatial data standards as part of this role of a lead agency.  We began working on the issue some years ago, focusing on the National Park Service cultural resource spatial data to test our ideas and begin getting our own data in order.  However, we also began talking with other Federal agencies, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and private organizations in 2006 and 2007 to work toward developing some consensus on what larger FGDC cultural resource standards should look like and what they should focus on.

In December 2007 we drafted a proposal to the FGDC explaining the need for the creation of cultural resource spatial data standards, and explaining the decentralized nature of cultural resource data stewardship within the US, discussing that the States and Tribes hold the majority of the data for instance.  Any standards created through the FGDC apply only to Federal agencies in terms of needing to comply with the standards, but we felt strongly that because cultural resource data is held by the States and Tribes primarily, obviously they needed to be included in the discussion as well and help to formulate any such standards. The original proposal is posted on the FGDC website:

In February 2008 the FGDC Standards Working Group approved our proposal and established the cultural resource spatial data standards project as an official FGDC project within the Subcommittee for Cultural and Demographic Data.  In March 2009 we held a summit meeting to begin developing some consensus and attempting to define a path forward.  In the March 2009 meeting we had approximately 75 participants from Federal, State, and Tribal agencies as well as private organizations.

Several conclusions came from the March 2009 meeting, the first being that we need to focus first on data transfer standards that would allow us to share data among Federal, State and Tribal organizations, should we need or choose to, rather than data content standards.  Second, we needed to form a cultural resource work group within the Subcommittee on Cultural and Demographic Data.  Many participants of the March 2009 meeting offered to also join in the work group, however we are seeking greater participation from the Tribal communities to make sure that your voice is heard and incorporated into the standard process.

We hope to keep the size of the work group to a manageable number, around 40 individuals.  This group would responsible primarily for the construction of the standards and will include Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies.  We do not anticipate that the work group would take a significant amount of time from anyone's schedules and we anticipate that most meetings would be held through teleconferences.  We do feel strongly however that the Tribal perspective must be part of any standard creation process.

It was also suggested at our March 2009 meeting that we form a larger peer review group that would review any products coming from the work group before they went for public review.  We would anticipate that this group would be much more inclusive and be much larger.  This group would not necessarily be responsible for creating the standards, but it would provide comment, feedback and ideas for the work group to incorporate into the process.

If you are interested in participating in the work group or the peer review group, we would very much like to hear from you.  Our space on the work group is rather limited, but we feel that Tribal perspectives are very important to take into account.  Because we do not have this expertise, we would appreciate any participation you could offer.  If you have any suggestions of those you think would be interested in participating, or if there are any questions I can answer, please contact me.  We are hoping to have the work group participants finalized by September, however the peer group participants are much more open ended.

You can reach me at:

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To give you some background, here is a link to an article that discusses the process that we went through in creating cultural resource spatial data transfer standards for the NPS and how that parallels this FGDC process:

Thank you for your consideration,

Deidre McCarthy, GISP
Cultural Resource GIS Facility
Heritage Documentation Programs
National Park Service