The University of Alabama’s Office of Archaeological Research (OAR) is committed to continuing to provide the quality services that have made us a leader in Cultural Resource Management in Alabama and beyond, while following the COVID-19 guidelines and procedures set forth by the CDC, the State of Alabama, and the University administration. We are still conducting field work and curation services, as well as maintaining the Alabama State Site File for archaeological resources. The following outlines some of the procedures we have implemented to ensure the safety of our staff and the larger community by minimizing the risk of community spreading of the COVID-19 virus.
Office Staff – OAR office staff are primarily teleworking via VPN and email to access shared documents to process the daily work flow of reports and administrative responsibilities. If employees need to physically be at the office to accomplish a specific task, they are contacting our director and staggering their access. Inside the building we have stations set up at each entrance and interior doorway to the lab and office spaces with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for washing of hands and door handles. OAR staff are maintaining the recommended physical separation of at least six feet from other coworkers at all times and are keeping their time in the building to a minimum while working on essential tasks.
Field Crews – Field personnel are currently working on smaller projects or projects that are close enough to OAR that they do not require overnight accommodations in hotels. Each field technician is working as a unit of one, with all necessary field equipment (including vehicles) assigned to a single individual to prevent cross contamination through multiple people handling what would be communal resources under normal circumstances. Each team member has hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in their assigned vehicle to clean the interior surfaces after each use and are maintaining their field equipment at home to avoid having to enter the building each morning. GPS data are being transferred to our GIS technician via Wi-Fi connection.
When refueling, one person accesses the pumps for multiple vehicle crews, wearing gloves, and spraying down all surfaces with Lysol before and after use. As of April 3, we are implementing use of masks for refueling as well. Crews are discouraged from entering gas stations or convenience stores unless absolutely necessary and if so, must follow the self disinfecting protocol involving gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting spray.
Lab Staff – The processing of curation materials continues, with our lab personnel also primarily working from home. Each lab technician is receiving delivery of multiple boxes of artifacts, field notes, photographs, and other materials to be processed. Senior staff are transporting and delivering these materials from Moundville to individual lab personnel at an agreed upon location in town. Physical distancing is being implemented when exchanging materials, with the exterior surfaces of the curation boxes and file folders being sprayed and cleaned with Lysol and disinfectant wipes after each handling of said materials.
We continue to use paper analysis forms to maintain a records in multiple format. These forms are being scanned and provided to other staff electronically, for data entry. Currently, we are not conducting analysis of human remains associated with NAGPRA projects.
Alabama State Site File – OAR continues to maintain the Alabama State Site File (ASSF), which is always growing with new archaeological sites being recorded. Requests for site information and background research are still being processed.
While these procedures may impede the proficiency in which we would work under normal circumstances, it is with an abundance of caution to ensure everyone’s safety that we will continue to work within these protocols until the current health risks associated with COVID-19 have diminished. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to continuing to provide the quality of service you have come to expect from OAR during these uncertain times. In the meantime, please stay safe and do what you can to protect yourself and your loved ones.
The OAR staff