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