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Beth O’Leary

Beth O’Leary
College Professor Emerita
Emeritus Faculty

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Office: NA

Expertise: Space Archaeology


Dr. O’Leary’s areas of interest include both cultural anthropology and archaeology. She is one of the creators and experts in Space Archaeology and Heritage. She started her career in this field in 2000 when in her Cultural Resource Management (CRM) graduate seminar, a student Ralph Gibson asked, “Does preservation law apply on the Moon?” With students, she received a grant from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium to investigate the archaeological assemblage and the heritage status of the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base site on the Moon. In 2010, she and colleagues successfully nominated objects and structures at the Tranquility Base to the State Registers of Cultural Properties in both California and New Mexico. She was invited by NASA to work with a team of scientists to produce “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts” (2011). In 2012, she received an award from NASA for that work. With over 30 years of experience in CRM n New Mexico, she has served as an expert witness in federal courts and was on the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee (2003–2011), a policy making board of nine individuals appointed by the governor of New Mexico.

Her books include: (2017) The Final Mission: Preserving NASA’s Apollo Sites (with co-authors L.Westwood and M.W. Donaldson, University Press of Florida.); (2015) The Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space (with co-editor, P.J. Capelotti, Springer International Press); and (2009) The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage (with co-editor A. Darrin, CRC Taylor and Francis Press). Dr. O’Leary has chaired five international symposia on Space Archaeology and Heritage. A pioneer in this evolving field, she has been interviewed by international media, including among others: NPR, BBC, Smithsonian, National Geographic, New York Times, LA Times, Deutsche Radio, Sunlife (China), USA Today, Geo, Scientific American, Ars Techica, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She has written articles for Antiquity and the Washington Post.

Dr O’Leary has also done research on Athapaskan cultures in Canada and the U.S. She wrote “Salmon and Storage: Southern Tutchone Use of an ‘Abundant’ Resource”, Government of the Yukon, Canada , Heritage Branch. She created a book, “My County is Alive” (2006) and CD,“Stories and Songs from My Country” (2009) with First Nations elder, Marge Jackson.

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Current Research

Although Dr. O’Leary retired in 2014, she is currently (2019) working on an oral history of First Nations elder, Marge Jackson under a grant with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Yukon Canada.

She is on the editorial board for Springer International Publishing Space & Society Series and a member of the World Archaeological Congress Space Heritage Task Force. She is on the advisory boards for Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence and For All Moonkind. She serves as an editor of the online Journal of Space Archaeology and Media.

For more information on space archaeology and heritage go to her NMSGC project: Lunar Legacies website.