Importance of the Petrous Temporal Bone

by Anne Hittson

Hello! My name is Anne and I have been a collections assistant on the rehousing of Angel Mounds since June 2019.

Anne in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska in July 2019

I graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design in June 2018. My studio practice and academic study explores the interrelations of objects—ancient and contemporary, and language—written, spoken, and visual. I believe the study of visual communication of and through art and artifacts offer an incredible understanding of human development and culture. I have always asked: “What can these objects tell us?” for the making of objects communicate so differently than spoken or written language.

I am studying to be a Speech Pathologist. I wish to further explore and understand the different layers of how spoken and written language operates in our brain, the developmental stages we go through in exercising it, and what happens in our brain when we do not exercise it. I am excited to learn about the plasticity of our brain, because it is, figuratively and literally, one of the most flexible and softest organs in the body.

While working on the rehousing of Angel Mounds project, I have grown accustomed to handling and learning about faunal bones, and have been most interested in one of the densest bones in the body, which is so near to the soft brain that it is almost poetic: the petrous temporal bone of the white-tailed deer.

Petrous part of temporal bone fragment of white-tailed deer

The petrous temporal bone is wedge-shaped and roughly has a diameter of a quarter. It is technically a part of the temporal bone which is situated on either side of the skull that houses the structure that forms the middle and inner ear.

As a visual artist, I was drawn to its organically odd shape and my ignorance of understanding its anatomy. There are shallow depressions that spiral into deep cavities, small pockets of air that appear delicately thin, but the bone is indeed incredibly hard. Each one I come across is slightly different in length, width and texture of surface – some are ribbed, while others appear smooth and polished. I deeply appreciated learning of the delicate labyrinth that this small bone held within it.

Within the petrous part, sound waves are transmitted from air to the fluid-filled cochlea or inner ear. Quite generally, they do so as vibrations through canals, cavities and along auditory nerves in the brain that all work harmoniously to activate our registry of sound.

Petrous bone still attached to temporal bone of white-tailed deer

Furthermore, it is the density of the petrous bone that makes itself unique to scientists and researchers in DNA studies. Compared to other bones, DNA of the petrous bone is not easily degradable through soil and wear and because of the prolonged decay of bone induced by its density, it is one of the most widely used sites to study DNA.

I regularly come across petrous bones while working on the rehousing of Angel Mounds. It is oddly satisfying to spot them with their peculiar shapes and textures and with so many found at the site of excavation, it is exciting to think of the possibility of using them for DNA research. If conducted, this research could tell us more than what we can see with our eyes and would be an enormous and exciting investigation of faunal life at Angel Mounds.

Integrating the Mixed Materials of the Angel Mounds Collection

by Ryan Edward Peterson

Ryan with some of the rehoused Angel collection

Hello everyone! My name is Ryan Peterson. I am a member of the crew that has been working hard all summer on the Angel Mounds rehousing project here at the Glenn Black Lab. As a member of the “Saving America’s Treasures” (SAT) team I have spent my summer decked out in gloves and a mask rehousing, conserving, and reintegrating the Angel Mounds collection.

I am a second year PhD student at Indiana University. My focus is on Great Lakes archaeology, specializing in the production, procurement, and exchange of native copper on islands and coastlines in the Upper Great Lakes. The isolation of these raw resources spurs me to study the question of how copper from the Upper Great Lakes has been found dispersed in a variety of places, including Angel Mounds. As a Great Lakes archaeologist, the movement of people, especially over large bodies of water, is another important facet of this area of study. This movement links directly with the use and exchange of Native copper throughout the region.

Currently, the rehousing team is working our way through the faunal bones from Angel Mounds. These materials are purposefully being rehoused first, due to the degree of mold that has grown on the materials (in comparison to the rest of the collection). We have a saying at the GBL, “the worst goes first!” We prioritize our rehousing and conservation based on the artifacts that have the greatest need.

As the team goes through bag after bag, and box after box of bone, we continuously find more than just bone in these bags. In these bags, along with the bone, we find a mix of many other materials, such as pottery, lithics (stone), wood, and other materials that were mistaken for bone when the original WPA workers roughly sorted the artifacts. As the original WPA workers learned how to identify one artifact from another, they slowly became more efficient at distinguishing artifacts. This was a trend noticed as the rehousing team at first found a large amount of mixed materials in the early boxes of bone, but the amount of mixed materials slowly tapered down as the experience of the WPA workers went up.

Identifying these mixed materials can be quite a challenge to the untrained observer. When attempting to distinguish these materials from one another, two of the biggest clues are the texture and weight of the artifacts. Wooden artifacts are light in weight and contain a grain-like structure. Lithics, in contrast, are heavier than the average bone, but their smooth surface can be deceiving when compared to long bone fragments. Ceramics at Angel Mounds are tempered with shell (temper is added into the clay and helps strengthen the pottery during firing). This shell tempering is very distinctive and can help identify an artifact as ceramic even if its shape is deceiving. It is common to find ceramics formed into not only vessels, but also effigy figures. Many of these figures, especially when broken, can bear a shocking resemblance in shape to bone.

After these artifacts are pulled from their incorrect bags, the mixed materials are removed, labeled, and placed aside. The rehousing team then goes through the Angel Mounds catalog system to determine where other materials from the section that the original bone was in are located in the Angel Collection. These artifacts are then organized by their new location and placed in what should have been their correct location. As these artifacts are placed into their temporary new location, we often rediscover new things in the multitude of boxes that are being opened. This process is referred to as reintegration. The reintegration of these materials into the larger Angel Collection as a whole allows for a more accurate curation and management of materials, along with creating the potential for more accurate collections-based research.

Curating Angel Is Underway!

By Melody Pope and April Sievert, Principal Investigators and co-Directors of Curating Angel Mounds Legacy Collections

Welcome to the summer blog posting for the Curating Angel Project.  The Curating Angel project, funded through the FY2018 Save America’s Treasures grant program monitored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Park Service, is one of the largest Angel Mound collections projects since the transfer of the collection to the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) in the early 1970s.  The bulk of the Angel Mounds collection has been stored in repository Room 16 at the GBL, also known as the Angel Room since the lab opened in 1971. 

View down one of the aisles in the Angel Room at the GBL.
View down one of the aisles in the Angel Room at the GBL. (2013)

The collection fills 2,800 cardboard boxes comprising 2,900 ft3.  Housed in the original containers used for packing and storing the collections at the Angel Mounds field laboratory, most of the bags inside the boxes have not seen the light of day for 50 to 80 years.  Numerous rodent and insect nests and debris in the bags and boxes speak to the effects of pests when collections are stored for over a quarter of a century at makeshift field repositories. 

In addition to the remains of past pests, many of the bags became feeding grounds for mold.  While mold may have resulted initially from poor field storage conditions, inappropriate humidity and temperature controls at the GBL further acerbated the problem. We discovered that many of the boxes housing animal bone were in very bad condition hence we adopted a “worst goes first” approach.  This meant starting with the 650 boxes of animal bone.  Rehousing the animal bone first not only helps to mitigate the mold problem, but it also expedites the important and timely process of checking and removing human remains that had been inadvertently mixed with the animal bone. IU Environmental Health Services tested the air in the Angel room in the fall of 2019 and reported elevated levels of Penicillium/Aspergillus species, not a surprising outcome based on high seasonal humidity and paper bags of items with mold on them.

Bag with mold growing on it.
Bag with mold growing on it. (2019)

Thoroughly cleaning the room to create a safe work environment and hopefully begin to abate mold growth was step one.  In addition to vacuuming all surfaces with a HEPA vacuum, we installed an industrial air scrubber.  All project staff are required to wear HEPA filtering facepieces and gloves.  Industrial dehumidifiers and an air scrubber in the Angel Room help maintain a safe working environment.

The first quarter of the project was officially underway on December 1, 2018.  To avoid spreading mold to other areas of the laboratory, we set up the rehousing operation in the Angel Room. A flurry of activity was directed toward configuring and cleaning workspaces, purchasing supplies, evaluating and implementing database needs, developing a box bar coding system, planning workflows, testing work processes, hiring, training, and fitting staff with HEPA filtering masks. 

Work stations and crew rehousing in the Angel Room.
Work stations and crew rehousing in the Angel Room. (2019)

After tripping a few circuits, we also discovered early in the process that new electrical circuits were necessary to run the new air scrubber and dehumidifiers essential to ensuring a safe working environment. The Angel Room now has several new circuits!

By early in the second quarter, rehousing the animal bone boxes was well underway.  By June 1, 36 old boxes were transformed into 74 new acid free boxes. The summer rehousing crew consists of an amazing group of students and post-graduates who are getting a lot of hands-on experience in curation and conservation training.   While a tedious and thankless job, discarding the old mold and pest infested bags and boxes and seeing the newly rehoused collection is both rewarding and exciting.

The bone preservation from Angel is excellent and it is obvious after our first month of rehousing animal bone that there is a wealth of untapped research potential. Bear, deer, elk, a variety of small mammals, fish, turtle and numerous bird bones await further research on foodways, hunting, discard practices, and the everyday and circumstantial uses to which Mississippian peoples put animals and their byproducts.   We project rehousing the estimated 650 boxes of animal bone will be complete by the end of the year. 

Animal bone from a single bag awaiting rehousing in new acid-free containers (2019)

Rehousing bone also provided an opportunity to learn about types of mold encountered when rehousing legacy collections, the topic of our next Curating Angel blog.  In the coming weeks a series of summer blog posts will introduce you to the rehousing team and provide some insights into the collection, its research potential, conservation issues, and the process of curating, storing, and managing the collection in preparation for its transfer to the new IU Auxiliary Library Facility, known as ALF3.

GBL space at the new IU ALF3 collections storage facility awaiting transfer of the newly rehoused Angel collections. (2019)

We hope you enjoy following along with us on Curating Angel. It’s almost like excavating Angel Mounds for a second time!    

More About IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 5

Part 5 of Amanda’s Angel Rehousing Project blog series

by Amanda Pavot

I have returned with news!

First, this is going to be my last blog post of the semester. However(!), the current plan is to continue to make blog posts about the project as it goes on. It’s just going to be different people writing. Maybe we’ll get more perspectives other than mine! Keep checking the blog for more updates!

More importantly, the Rehousing has started! It’s being divided into a couple of phases, those phases being “sort out the moldy bone boxes” and then “do everything else.”

~Issues in Curation~

Remember last post when I said that our NAGPRA team was pulling out AFOs and going through faunal remains to ensure that all sacred items and human remains are accounted for? Also, remember waaay back when I said that some of the boxes of artifacts have mold in them?

After opening boxes that had faunal remains in order to go through them, many of those boxes were found to have mold in them. Before our NAGPRA team can sort through those bones, they need to be cleaned up and rehoused into temporary bags and boxes. Only then can they be sorted through. Because it’s Very Important to get this done, cleaning up the moldy bone boxes is the priority right now. So here’s how it works:

First, we put on our respirators and nitrile gloves. That’s very important. Then we pull one of the moldy boxes. We take out one of the bags and look up the information written on the bag to find it in our digital database. Then we take the bones out of the bag, count them, vacuum off any mold (using a special attachment on the vacuum with the HEPA filter, which I think is cooler than it probably really is. The mold just comes right off, though!), and then weigh them. We get a new, archival-quality bag, write the information from the old bag onto the new one along with quantity and weight, and put the bones into the new bag. We also update the information in the database –for example, sometimes the number of artifacts in the bags and the number the database says we should have in those bags are different. Put the bag into a new box, move on to the next bag!

I left out a lot of the nitty-gritty details, but that’s basically how it works. We’re working in teams of two, one on a laptop with the database and one on the vacuum. When we finally finish all of the moldy bones, we’ll move on to the rest of the bulk collection. We’ll be training more people soon, and with more people we’ll be able to plow right through these boxes this summer!

I want to thank everyone who’s read these posts and has followed along so far. So: thank you! I’m looking forward to where this project is headed, and I hope you all are interested in it, too. I may be making some posts in the future, but, until then, have a great summer!


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

More about IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 4

Amanda’s 4th blog about the ongoing Angel Rehousing project

by Amanda Pavot

Time for another Angel Update!

I’m still working on inventorying the boxes of the Type Collection. At first, I worked on a box of mostly projectile points, especially small triangular points. Then I worked on an especially heavy box of groundstone, which includes items like stones they used as hammers and celts (stone axes). Now I’m working on a box of worked bone, which includes bone tools and pins. One neat thing about working in a museum like this is the variety of interesting artifacts you get to see! Holding an object that was carved into by a person hundreds of years ago can really make you feel things.

There are a lot of other projects connected to this Angel Rehousing project. One of these is the very important job of repatriating artifacts and human remains. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a law that, among other things, sets the procedure of returning certain Native American artifacts to their related communities. It also reflects changes in thought, specifically how archaeologists in the early 20th century think in terms of family connections to communities of Native Americans. Excavations at Angel Mounds began in the early-to-mid 20th Century, so human remains and objects associated with burials ended up in the Glenn Black’s collection.

What we call the “NAGPRA Team” has already been working on sorting out the human remains and AFOs (Associated Funerary Objects, or objects buried with the deceased) to be repatriated. There is an original list of AFOs that is used to find the artifacts in the collection that were associated with burials. Each object is pulled from the bulk collection and carefully documented; they are measured, weighed, and identified and described in more detail than what was done previously. An object noted in the original logs as simply “animal bone” will now have more pertinent information listed in the database. The Angel Rehousing project will end up playing an important role in this as well.

While AFOs have already been pulled from the bulk collection, sometimes, despite our best efforts, objects can be missed. As we sort through each individual artifact to be rehoused, we can look them up in the database where it will say if it is an AFO or not. Any found AFOs can then be separated out to be repatriated. In other words, the rehousing gives us the chance to go through every artifact to ensure no AFOs are missed.

There’s also the rehousing of the faunal artifacts, aka all the animal bones. A lot of times animal remains were buried with humans, or animal carcasses were discarded near burials. While most of the human remains have already been separated from the rest of the artifacts, it can be very difficult to identify small bone fragments, and some human remains have been found mixed up with animal remains. As we rehouse faunal artifacts, we will be going through the bones to double-check that no human remains are left behind, ensuring that, if any are found, they can be treated with the respect they deserve and be repatriated.

I’ll end this post with exciting news; rehousing starts this week! Next time, I’ll be back with more specifics about that!


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

More about IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 3

by Amanda Pavot

Iiiiiitt’s that time again! Another post about the Angel Rehousing Project!

I suppose it’s about time I talk about why this Rehousing project is being done in the first place. Getting artifacts out of their old bags and boxes, and into newer, nicer ones is all well and good, but why are we doing it? The short answer is because we need to update the collection to modern curation standards, but what does that even mean?

The Rehousing is only part of an overall “Curating Angel” project. The big, main part, of course. Organizing associated records, like photographs, reports, and field notes, is also a part of this project. Eventually, most of the collection will be moved to a place that has better climate control. The goal is to update, organize, inventory, and digitize the collection of artifacts for easier access, to promote research. By updating the storage and documentation to modern standards, the collection can be better preserved and shared.

~Issues in Curation!~

A small example of some of the issues we and potential researchers have now:

Let’s say someone is interested in studying a selection of artifacts from the collection, and requests the opportunity to look at them. We go to find the artifacts by using location information from the database; they should be in a certain box. We go to that box only to discover that they aren’t there. They were either A) moved and no one left any notes or documentation saying when or where they were moved, or B) discarded, because in the past people discarded things for almost no reason. It can take a while to track down what happened to the artifacts, if we still have them, and in the meantime the researcher can’t do the research they want to do. Through rehousing and documenting, will have an updated and more accurate collections database and better accessibility.

The Save America’s Treasures Grant is what is making this project possible. You can find out more about the grant in a link below each of these posts. It was given for this project because Angel Mounds is a culturally and historically important site, so the preservation of its collection is vital. I might talk more about that in detail in a later post. But this grant is part of the reason I’m doing these blogs! Since it’s federally funded, it’s important for the public to know how this money is going to be used.

This past week, I’ve continued inventorying one of the Type Collection boxes. Type collections are used more often than the rest of the collection, so for ease of access a lot of the artifacts have already been sorted through and put into archival bags. But it’s been a long journey of “look up each individual artifact in the data base and make sure the label is correct, but also you sometimes have to try and decipher labels you can barely read.” This has also been a bit of a test run to see how long inventorying one box of the bulk type collection might take. If it sounds monotonous or tedious, it’s not a problem (for me, at least) because I like steady work and also sorting stuff.

Before I end this post, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who visited that GBL table at the Indiana University Powwow on April 6th! I wasn’t able to stay very long, but we met a lot people and had some good conversations! I had a great time and I’ll definitely be back next year!


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

More about IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 2

The second blog post by Amanda Pavot about the ongoing Angel Rehousing project.

by Amanda Pavot

Hello again! The last couple of weeks have been busy busy at the Lab as usual, so here’s a bit of an update on what we’ve been up to!

While big-picture details of the Angel Project are ironed out by other staff members, workers like myself finish up the other projects that need to be done first. This has mostly entailed cleaning up the inventories of other collections and deep searches through archives for various info. Honestly, all the interesting things I’ve found digging through papers from the 1920s through the 1980s could be a blog series all on its own, but that’s not what THIS blog is about. Since there have also been some more projects pertaining to the Angel Mounds collection specifically, those are what will be discussed here.

Digitizing catalog cards

While we have a digital catalog of the artifacts in the collection, the original physical catalog cards that were written up over decades to inventory the Angel Mounds collection are still occasionally referenced. To preserve and make finding them easier, they are in the process of being digitized. There are literally hundreds of thousands of them, so some cards take priority to be scanned first. The cards that contain information about artifacts in the “type collection,” a collection of the best examples of different kinds of artifacts found at the site, are what I just finished working on. There are something like 1,200 of them, so it took literally weeks of scanning almost non-stop for hours at a time in order to get it done. Part of this blog post and most of the last one were written during the process of scanning catalog cards for the sake of a change of pace.

I’ve since started doing inventory of which artifacts of the type collection are in which boxes, which is much cooler because ARTIFACTS. It’s still incredibly important work, because a proper inventory will make finding and keeping track of the artifacts much easier. It’s also a bit of a test for the kind of inventory work that’s going to need to be done to the rest of the Angel Mounds collection. Seeing the kinds of issues that pop up, knowing the amount of time that it takes to inventory these boxes, as well as the personal experience of doing the inventory, will help prep for when the Rehousing gets started. For example, the artifact labels, the numbers written directly on the artifacts, were written on with stuff that has a tendency to chip off, making the numbers on some of the artifacts nearly illegible. Especially when you have a lot of them bagged together, knocking up against each other and rubbing the labels off. I didn’t realize something like that could be a problem. But now that I have more experience reading the handwriting of whoever wrote the labels, this isn’t a big issue since I can guess the correct number by the fragments left behind (and confirm it with info from the database, of course).

cleaning the angel room

As of this writing, we are also in the process of cleaning up the Angel Room, which houses the artifacts, as best we can. This includes vacuuming the fronts of all of the cardboard boxes in the room, of which there are literally hundreds, and wiping down the shelves where boxes aren’t currently sitting. After that comes cleaning the floors. The goal is to get rid of as much dust and dirt as possible for the safety of those who go in there and also for the sake of general cleanliness.

So the process goes like this: put on a respirator to protect you from breathing in bad things; put on a paper gown and nitrile gloves to keep bad things from getting on you; strap on your backpack vacuum cleaner (complete with HEPA filter!); and vacuum box-by-box, shelf-by-shelf, aisle-by-aisle. Then, go back with some cleaning wipes and wipe down the empty shelves. Our collections manager, Jennifer, has been working on doing the top two rows of every aisle because they’re so high up that you need a ladder to clean them. Then Hannah, another collections assistant like myself, or I go in later to clean the rest of it. It can take an hour to do an aisle, so we started doing an aisle each per day. There’s a sign-up sheet outside the room that shows who has cleaned what and, with the progress we’re making, we may even be able to start vacuuming the floors by the time this is posted.

I feel like we all have been anxiously waiting to begin rehousing, but the preparations beforehand are critical to beginning a project as large as this. Especially a project that’s as complex and important as the Angel collection. But little by little, this project is coming together! “Step 1” inspections of the archive, catalog, and bulk collection of artifacts and “Step 2” preparation to rehousing the collection will get us to “Step 3” – the Rehousing! I’ll be back next week with more updates on the Rehousing project and the collections assistant experience! 


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

More about IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 1

The first blog post by Amanda Pavot about the ongoing Angel Rehousing project.

by Amanda Pavot

Hello everyone! This is Amanda Pavot, and about once a week for the next month or so I’m going to be posting updates about our Angel Rehousing project, which is starting soon. But some things first:

What the rehousing is

Getting the artifacts of the Angel Mounds collection out of their current bags and boxes, and putting them in archival-quality bags and boxes. It will help conserve them, but also most of them are in the original brown paper bags that they were put in directly after being taken out of the ground decades ago (literally 60-70+ years ago for a lot of them!), and that’s just gross. And there are around 2.5 million individual artifacts that need to be rehoused, so this is a big project.

Preparation for something of this scale involves a lot of logistics. Everything from “What room are the artifacts going to be rehoused in?” and “How many artifacts need to be re-housed per day in order to finish in the time we need to do this?” to “How do we budget this?” Hiring people, needing to schedule respirator fittings (more on that later), buying the bags and boxes needed, and so many other tasks need to be completed and questions answered before the project can even start.

But those are all problems for people above me. I’m just a grunt, which means most of my preparation has been to finish all of these other small projects and tie up other loose ends before this big project starts. But that’s for another blog post. The task done in preparation that I’m going to talk about today is in a little segment I’m going to call:

~Issues in Curation~

Mold! It’s there. In the room that the Angel collection is currently stored in. In the boxes that the artifacts are currently stored in. It should go unsaid that this is Not a Good Thing, but what do those working in a museum have to do in a situation like this? How does this affect the project?

There have been some delays in starting this project, this being one of the reasons. Originally, there was a plan to do the actual rehousing of the artifacts in the archives, which is next to the Angel Room. This is because there is a nice big table in the archives that would fit several people + boxes + artifacts, and also some computers if needed, and it would just be the kind of place to work on this project. But with the whole mold revelation, plans on how the rehousing was going to work had to be remade. Disturbing of the artifacts has to be confined to the Angel Room in order to help contain the mold, but it also has available space to work. So now not only do we have to decide how working in a different and much more confined space is going to be done, we also have mold cleanup to worry about. (Though again, most of those decisions I don’t have to worry about; but as one of the people doing the rehousing, I’ll be helping refine some strategies since I’ll actually be working in there).

Mold mitigation and cleaning affected artifacts is going to need to be taken into account. Cleaning the room itself (vacuuming, big expensive air scrubber, etc.) is also a factor that wasn’t there before. So is the protection of anyone working in there.

Last week was Respirator Fitting Time! Which I didn’t realize was a thing, though it makes sense in hindsight. Also training! To comply with OSHA standards, there was an official University training module we had to do online, plus a health form we had to fill out. Then someone from IU EHS (Indiana University Environmental Health Services) came over to help us with fitting. The respirators that we’re going to use are the ones that look a lot like medical face masks except they filter bad stuff like mold, so they need to be fitted to make sure they properly seal to your face. The model that we have didn’t fit the face shape of a couple of people, so we’ll be fitted for a different model eventually, but the one we tried fit me! So that means I’ll probably get to be one of the people to vacuum off the tops of the hundreds of cardboard boxes in the Angel Room, which is the next project that needs to be done before rehousing can get started. Yay!

Thanks for reading this far! I’ll keep posting more updates and changes in this project through the end of the semester. I hope that anyone who reads this will gain a little insight into what it’s like to work in a museum or other institution that houses large collections of artifacts like these.


In September 2018, the GBL was awarded a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This “Curating Angel” project will allow us to provide safe, long-term preservation of the artifacts and associated documentation from archaeological work at Angel Mounds and make these collections more accessible for research and education.

More about IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

(The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

Newspaper Coverage of the Angel Mounds Purchase, 1938-39

by Hannah Rea

In addition to working with social media this semester, I’ve undertaken a project using archival resources here at the Lab. I’m working with newspaper articles from the 1938-39 purchase of the Angel Mounds site near Evansville, which I think is a good intersection of my two areas of study—journalism and history. Being as I am a newspaper nerd, it’s also just a lot of fun.

We don’t know much about the collection of articles I’m using, other than they are part of the Glenn Black papers. That being said, we can’t be entirely sure it was Glenn himself who collected them. But I do thing these articles were collected to serve a purpose, while other articles were excluded.

So far I’ve found some interesting things, including examples of how journalism has evolved in the past 80 years and the editorial nature of many of the articles. There are a lot of what I would call ‘Call to Action’ phrases which indicate the author of the article was more than just informing on a situation, but pushing for action to be taken. This would fall under what some call ‘activist journalism’ today, but the lines between editorial (that is, more opinion-driven) content and not was much more blurred. Now, as a general rule, Opinion columns are labeled as such.

One feature of newspaper coverage at this time in Evansville was the work of Karl Kae Knecht, affectionately referred to by readers as ‘K.K.K.’ He produced editorial cartoons for the Evansville Courier from 1906 to 1960, and was an almost-constant presence in Evansville homes. Knecht often took on activist themes in his work, at times calling for change on a local, national, and global level. His interests ranged from maritime safety after the 1912 Titanic disaster, to keeping morale up during the Second World War, to —for the purposes of my research— the purchase of Angel Mounds.

Newspaper clipping from GBL collections (2019)

One of the most distinctive features of a K.K.K. cartoon is Kay the elephant, who shows up in nearly every one of his pieces and quickly became a recognizable signature. She’s at the bottom left of this cartoon —with her feathered headdress, she’s clearly meant as a caricature of a former Native resident of the Mounds site.

This brings up another feature of K.K.K.’s cartoons and of the coverage of the time: It’s just a few years after Howard Carter’s widely-publicized and global-attention-grabbing excavation of King Tut’s tomb, and archaeology in the 1930s is framed as ‘exotic’ and exciting. The focus of the public was on the artifacts and their potential value (usually monetary), not necessarily on the people to whom they belonged. The articles and this cartoon especially panders to that romanticized view of the study of the past.

When working with newspaper articles, you have to put them in the context in which they were written. They were produced for public consumption, to a public with little or no regard for the memory of the people who once lived and walked where they now stand. There was even less of an understanding that descendant groups were not only present around the United States, but actively being harmed by this method of undermining their existence and the memory of their ancestors.

This is not to say the coverage reflects the views of contemporary archaeologists and historians themselves; that’s a different research project. My focus is on that information meant for public consumption. Arguments can and have been made that the work of writers and artists like K.K.K. is a product of its time, a reflection of norms in how a group of people may be portrayed while at the same time their individual voices were stifled or ignored.

Everything from word choice to the amount of space dedicated to a column can tell us about the perceived importance of a topic. Reading these articles give a glimpse into the information being shared. While it can at times be offensive and shocking to our modern eyes, it shines a light on an important truth in our collective past.


For further information on Karl Kae Knecht, see:

MacLeod, James Lachlan. The Cartoons of Evansville’s Karl Kae Knecht: Half a Century of Artistic Activism (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2017).

Spring 2019: Work with Wylie House Collections Continues

by Eric Carlucci

Beginning the spring 2019 semester with the Wylie House project meant continuing the categorizing and labeling of artifacts from the excavation. I ended the fall semester in the middle of working with the glass artifacts, and was unable to finish this by the beginning of winter break. When the semester started back up, I returned right where I left off.

The glass was a bit easier to label overall, as the B72 labeling material applied and dried much easier than it had on the ceramics. The same general process of labeling was performed: first a layer of B72, write the account number, category, and subcategory numbers over the dried B72; then another layer over top of what was written to prevent smudging. Instead of doing every piece that was large enough, it was determined the best process would be to label the ten largest pieces in each subcategory. This was decided because the glass was far more numerous than the ceramics, with over two thousand sherds, and because the vast majority was either aqua or clear flat glass. Some container glass and other types were found, but the overwhelming majority belonged to these other two classifications.

With the help of Lauren, an undergraduate student, we were able to finish labeling all the glass as of the end of January. Following the completion of the glass, we turned our attention to the next major category: metal artifacts. The metal was to be done a bit differently. Instead of labeling the artifacts directly, we were to just fill out the account card in the same way we had done with the other artifacts and use a specialized tag for larger and more unique artifacts. We did not have the special tags as of the time of this writing, but we will be doing this as soon as we receive them.