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Home arrowInclusiveness arrowChuck Niquette Interview

Interview with Chuck Niquette, President and CEO of Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., Lexington, Kentucky

Chuck NiquetteChuck Niquette's interest in archaeology evolved out of his love of history. It was not until his senior year as an undergraduate history major at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, that he took his first anthropology class. Despite this, he taught junior and senior high school history for four years in a small ranching community in southeastern Colorado. He got married and with the support of his wife, Garland, returned to his alma mater, took all of the anthropology classes offered in a year, and went off to graduate school at the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas experience led to an internship with the National Park Service in Denver and later a job with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Garland Niquette's desire for a doctorate degree in psychology led the couple to Lexington in the early 1980s. After a brief stint working as an archaeologist for Environment Consultants, Inc., the Niquettes started Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. What began essentially as one man working out of his basement, the company grew to 11 offices and approximately 100 full-time employees.

What led you to the preservation field?

Ha! I started college in the fall of 1969. I -- like many of my generation -- was having far too much fun and enjoying a 2-S deferment as long as I was in school. My draft number was 77, and they were drafting through the low 220s in my county (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where there were lots of legitimate conscientious objectors among the Amish and Mennonite populations), and I managed a 1.1 and a 1.3 GPA for my first two semesters. When I was placed on academic probation I had a choice, study or rice paddies. Naturally, I opted for the former and made a 4.0 for the balance of my undergraduate experience. President Nixon called off the draft two weeks before I graduated. I didn't declare a major until my junior year. While reviewing my classes at that time, I saw that I had about the same number of history credits as I did religion. I declared history and signed up for the required teaching classes. Senior year, last semester, I took my first anthropology class, Old World Prehistory. A huge light bulb came on, I had missed my calling, but it was too late. I was THE history teacher in a small ranching community in Southeast Colorado, Junior and Senior High. The whole time I was thinking about returning to school and pursuing another degree in anthropology. I met my wife, was married, and she encouraged me to pursue my dream. With her help I went back to the same undergraduate school in North Carolina, took every anthropology class offered plus a field school, and from there to grad school at the University of Arkansas. I was only there for 12 months when I was selected for a National Park Service internship in Denver. I took my qualifying exams before leaving Fayetteville. As the internship drew to a close I was offered a job with the ACHP in Denver. I accepted the position, took my remaining three classes there in Colorado, and wrote my thesis while holding down a full-time job. Life was good until my wife said she wanted to pursue a PhD. I said great, go to Boulder! She wanted to go to the University of Maryland. Kentucky became the compromise. I went to work for a consulting firm based in Dallas that failed while I was in the field with a full crew at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had incorporated previously with the idea of starting my own firm in 12 months or so. CRA was born at that moment, 30 years ago.

Why do you think historic preservation matters?

Historic preservation matters because it provides any community with a foundation of who they are and where they have come from, a sense of place. In the case of archaeology, we have the opportunity to document the past, to understand the same, and to look to the past as it relates to the future.
What courses do you recommend for students interested in this field? 
As a business owner I would advise students to pursue their passions, to acquire skills that are transferable to real world conditions, and to learn to wear multiple hats. A good field archaeologist or architectural historian is one thing, but if that same person is a cemetery specialist, a GIS guru, or can bring multiple skills sets to the table, he/she is a far more valuable potential employee.

Do you have a favorite preservation project?  What about it made it special?

Lower Howards Creek, Clark County, Kentucky. (Read about this project here.)

I "found" this special place while working with a Realtor looking for land on which to build a vacation home and good area for deer hunting. What I found was the cradle of industry here in Kentucky near Boonsboro. In addition to miles and miles of rock fences, the valley still holds 11 different mills and distilleries. It is now owned and managed by the Clark County Fiscal Court as an archaeological and nature preserve.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

Proposals for new work is my life. My escape is our corporate Facebook page    and the CRA Blog.

Do you have advice for novice and grassroots preservationists?

Network, network, and network. Use social media like LinkedIn, attend and participate in professional conferences, join professional societies like the Society for American Archaeology, and if eligible, become a Registered Professional Archaeologist.

The ACHP's mission is "preserving America's heritage;" can you give us an example of how your community is preserving their heritage?

Lexington, Kentucky, was slated for urban renewal like many other communities in the 1960s. Little old ladies in tennis shoes galvanized the community and saved a number of important historic properties, neighborhoods, and landscapes. Today, the city boasts of 12 different National Register Districts.

How do you think the national historic preservation programs have helped you?

As a consultant who has been involved in assisting federal agencies and private applicants comply with Section 110 and Section 106 compliance for 30-plus years it is interesting to observe how little interaction that I have had with the National Register and ACHP staff over this period of time. On those occasions when I have contacted ACHP staff, it is usually for advice about a potential problem, about the ACHP's position of this or that matter, or general inquiries about federal agency behavior regarding Section 106 or other historic preservation issues. There have been only a limited number of times where I participated with consulting parties in developing agreement documents, and these were always high profile, controversial projects. As to the National Register staff, I can think of only one project in the past 30 years where a disagreement over eligibility sent the issue on to the Keeper. That said, we have in recent years as a company prepared a large number of nominations for standing structures. Feedback from National Register staff has been prompt and professional. I think that both observations are relevant to how well the national program works. With respect to the National Trust, there is no one more important preservation partner for seeking a legal resolution once all administrative remedies have been exhausted.

Why do you think cultural resource management plays an important role in the preservation field?

I can't answer this question without bias. Not only is CRM responsible for more than 90 percent of the archaeological research completed in the United States today, the practitioners of CRM -- working through our industry trade association, the American Cultural Resource Association (ACRA) -- have a proven track record of affecting significant contributions to the legislative process.


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