The province has an interest in preserving the cultural heritage of all peoples in British Columbia. Part of that heritage is preserved in Archaeological information. Archaeological information comes in many forms; it includes written and visual information and material objects. This information tells us about the nature and context of archaeological sites on the landscape and about the contents found on or buried in archaeological sites. Visual objects may come in the form of photographs, field notes and maps. Material objects may come in the form of soil samples, animal and plant remains, and artifacts made of stone, minerals, bone, antler, shell and—when preserved under special conditions—wood.
This information is used by different people for different purposes. One person may be inspired by the work of an ancient artist while another uses the collections to bring about an appreciation of cultural groups by emphasizing their knowledge and technical skills. The more formal use of collections from a scientific perspective is to tell the story of humanity in this portion of the world. Scientists reconstruct patterns of settlement, resource use and human interaction in the past. Larger sets of information are used to reconstruct past lifeways at points in time, to look for and identify those important cultural processes that make cultures the way they are, or to examine the broader picture in the reconstruction of cultural history.
There are many sub-sets of material objects that can be used for an endless variety of studies. Through DNA and isotope studies, animal bones become a source of information to help us understand the history and ecology of modern species.
Within the subject area of archaeology there has been too much of an emphasis on artifacts, which should be viewed as only one component of archaeology. Artifacts should be viewed not as objects of value in themselves, but as a component of their context—they are part of an assemblage of information; they are meaningful insomuch as they form a part of the landscape. Of course, they may be viewed individually as objects of study or aesthetic admiration.
Laws protecting archaeological sites, and the undertaking of archaeological work, are understood to exist for scientific reasons. The information collected about the location of archaeological sites and the information collected within them (maps, photographs, drawings, field notes, food remains in the form of animal bones and plant parts, soil samples and artifacts) constitute evidence of past ways of life. This evidence is a source of information for ongoing research that allows for the building of a picture of past lifeways that becomes a source of inspiration and learning for the present. As further studies are undertaken on museum collections, more data is collected and becomes part of the museum collection.
A great deal of effort and money has been put into the collecting and curation of this material over the years. It is important to maintain the scientific integrity of these collections. Material from archaeological surveys and excavations is important in the context of all material related to the reconstruction of past lifeways.