You can take the archaeologist out of the archaeology laboratory, but I don’t think you can take the laboratory out of the archaeologist. In being separated from the physical lab space for both work and teaching, I’ve been thinking more about how the world outside of a physical building, holds the collections, assemblages, sites, and material culture that archaeologists and museum folk value and interpret. I made a foray into the woods that surrounds my house in Unionville to get a break from Zoom and visited an old midden, a dump of materials discarded from the early to mid 20th century. It was a common practice to dispose of unwanted and broken things into pits or drainages, especially before landfills and trash pickup became common.
Tossed into a natural drainage off the top of one of the many ridges in northwest Monroe county, the materials in the midden include metal, glass bottles, ceramics, all testifying to the people who once lived on the land. I know that previous residents include a family that has inhabited the ridge continuously since the 1840s, and descendants still live right next door. I came upon an empty bottle of Esquire Scuff-kote shoe polish, broken dishes, a glass electrical insulator, a tiny medicine bottle, and a very swell vacuum tube, among shards of window glass, rusty metal sheeting and many broken canning jars in shining clear and turquoise in the sunlight. This is a small archaeological site, associated with specific people. The site is too recent to be classified as a Historic Period archaeological site by the state of Indiana. However, it is a site nonetheless. I looked at and noted many pieces, but left them in place or in situ, as archaeologists would say. Field recording of artifacts gets you information without disturbing or having to curate the materials. Someday I will come back and make a map of the site.
When we get back into the Glenn Black Laboratory, it will be to pack up and move the collections. Then we will pack up and move our office to a temporary location. Soon after the demolition and construction crews will enter to create a redesigned space, one with enhanced visibility and accessibility, flexible learning spaces, and better collections care. It will be a bit sad to see furniture and fixtures that have been there since the GBL opened in 1971 (pretty shabby now), moved out, but the prospects for getting better materials and ergonomic design is so welcome. Not everyone shares my fondness for the mid-century modern look of the GBL, but elements of that design are classic. And it’s ironic that in 2021 the building would become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, by virtue of turning 50 years old.
Although it will be hard to say goodbye to the old Glenn Black Lab, come back and see us in 2022 when the complex will reopen as the Indiana Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, with the Glenn Black Laboratory under that umbrella, carrying on the archaeological research and teaching activities that it always has.
If you read new Executive Director Ed Herrmann’s piece on the merger and upcoming renovations, you might imagine the magnitude of the change is in store for the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology and our sister organization, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The GBL opened in 1971, and now nears 50 years in age, so renovations are long overdue. If you’ve ever been in the Angel Repository, you know just how little room we actually have to work in, so I welcome the opportunity to update mechanicals, rethink spaces, and gain areas in which to work through more efficient storage and collaborative space development. From my perspective, this change provides an opportunity to think and build toward a future that serves and engages the campus, the region, and the world in new ways. As we work together I stand in awe of the staff of the Mathers Museum, without whose collegiality, imagination, and professionalism keeps me optimistic in light of mountains of work to do. When we re-open, I imagine a Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology, which will continue as a lab within the new complex, enhanced with new space for working, accessible and re-thought storage for comparative collections, capacity for distance education and collaboration, and new technologies.
We started off the semester with the Campus Archaeology Symposium, held in conjunction with the Wylie House Museum, and co-directed by Carey Champion and Liz Watts Malouchos. The symposium was supported by a grant from the IU Bicentennial, and allowed us to gather speakers from around Indiana in discussions of archaeology done on college campuses. IU has a rich history hidden beneath the surface, and our Wylie house project engaged students and recovered historic information related to IU’s early faculty.
In October the GBL helped support the Plains Anthropological Conference which came to Bloomington for the first time. I got to help lead a group of conferees to Angel Mounds, along with Melody and Amanda Burtt. If there is one thing that I’ve learned about archaeologists, it’s that if you take them to a site, forget the tour—they will scatter like autumn leaves.
In addition, we hosted talk by Dr. Jonathan Reyman, formerly of the Illinois State Museum, who told us about his long-term project to distribute legally-acquired molted feathers to members of tribes in the Southwest, including many Pueblo communities for use. We hosted multiple classes who used the gallery exhibits, and received tours or targeted talks. In all, it’s been a very exciting and busy semester, and the pace is not likely to change any time soon!
Hot and rainy summers are certainly hard on the climate within our repository! In order to preserve the artifacts collected 80 years ago by Glenn A. Black at the Angel Mounds site, we need to contend with environmentally-related dangers to both staff and stuff. One of these is mold, tiny fungal bodies and spores that feed off organic materials. Molds love to grow where its dark and moist, and the inside of a box of archaeological bone may be ideal places under rising heat and humidity. Normally, as GBL Director, I don’t get the chance to get down and dirty, so I was happy to be able to arm myself with protective gear and start to figure out what we are dealing with .
We discovered serious mold problems at around the same time that we received news that we were awarded funding for Curating Angel Mounds, through the Save America’s Treasures program of the National Park Service, administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The first task was to have an air quality test done. Results of this test, which is facilitated by IU’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, shows higher levels of a common mold family—Aspergillus/Penicillium— in the air in our Angel Mounds Repository. The report indicates mold likely originating from within the room itself. This mold was likely being generated by moldy materials, most likely the acidic brown paper bags used for artifacts, some of which show both water damage and signs of mold (molds love acidic materials).
Mold produces spores from tiny branching filaments called hyphae. The mold can be inactive (dried spores that look like dust and can remain dormant for years) or active, meaning that the hyphae are happily making new spores. The hyphae are like tiny straws that suck water out of the substrate (whatever the mold is growing on) so that they can grow and make more spores. Active mold presents as smeary, fluffy, or hairy patches on surfaces. Molds grow well at temperatures between 60-90° F and RH above 65%. We deployed a large noisy air scrubber to remove the spores from the air, and extra dehumidifiers to bring the humidity down.
There are two quite different kinds of mold on the bags and artifacts from Angel Mounds that are visible with the naked eye. One presents as a white deposit adhering to a scratch on the bone surface.
The network of hyphae and spores become visible under high-power magnification using the polarizing filter on our metallurgical microscope. White deposits on at 500x magnification show a blurry mass of filaments the represent actively growing mold.
The white mold is consistent with the Aspergillus/Penicillium group and appears to like cuts or crevices in the bone cortex. Softer spongier bone provides easily accessible nutrients for the fungus. A very different brown mold that flourishes on a small proportion of bags shows up as fuzzy dots.
Bones within these bags sport dense patches of hyphae with dark brown spores. After initial cleaning, the location still had a tenacious colony of brown spores.
The clearly-seen spores are about 10 microns long and 6 microns wide, appear iridescent under polarized light, and are quite lovely. We’ll be sending samples of these beauties to a lab for more precise identification. So, stay tuned for more on mold, and the conservation treatment we are using!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Short description of negative-painted pottery sherd from Angel Mounds.
by April Sievert, Director
I spotted this pot-sherd as our curation assistant, Hannah Ballard (IU’18), was inventorying our ‘type’ collection of ceramics from Angel Mounds, the 13th century town on the Ohio River near Evansville. The piece, from the broad rim of a large plate, boasts a signature decorating technique—negative painting. Potters at Angel Mounds made plates of clay tempered with fine pieces of shell, and applied multiple layers of slip or pigment to create designs around the rim in black, red and buff-clay colors. While I’m used to seeing painted sherds with crossed-circle and geometric designs, this was the first time I’d actually seen one of the two sherds from Angel that sport a bi-lobed arrow/bowstring motif. The red arrow shows through a layer of black. The motif is a very special one for Mississippian people, seen far and wide across the Mississippi Valley and Southeast. Finding the design at Angel Mounds underscores how far afield people of Angel communicated.
Seeing this design reminded me of another Mississippian collection that I documented for the Smithsonian Institution’s Repatriation Office nearly 30 years ago. That site is Spiro, located along the Arkansas River in far eastern Oklahoma. Spiro was infamously looted in the 1930s, and later excavated as part of the Works Projects Administration, just like Angel. At Spiro, the motif had been carved into the outsides of whelk shells that hail from the Gulf of Mexico. Bi-lobed designs also show up also on hair ornaments, rock art, and rendered in native copper spread far across the Southeast.
But what does the motif mean? Association with the bow and
arrow seems pretty clear, with a possibility that the lobes reflect back to the
atlatl, or spear thrower. It could also be indirectly reflective of a
traditional Siouan culture hero known as Redhorn, or ‘he who gets hit with deer
lungs’. Professor Robert Hall was an Indigenous symbolic archaeologist from
Wisconsin, and one of my graduate mentors, who had made this connection. Could
the two lobes in the design harken back to an image of deer lungs attached to a
trachea? We can’t really know for sure, but it is clear is that ancient Indigenous
people along the Ohio engaged in a system of ceremony, communication, and
artistry that far exceeds the confines of an agricultural site in the central
Early 2019 brought a trip to Miami, Oklahoma, with Dr. Jayne-Leigh Thomas, Director of IU’s Office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). We attended the Miami Winter Gathering and enjoyed the hospitality and fabulous food that the Miami provide, heard their winter stories, and got to do some stomp dance.
We also visited the sparkling-new Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center, and were greeted and shown around by Ben Barnes, Second Chief. The current exhibits feature displays of pottery from the Ohio Valley and chronicle the Shawnee’s journey to recapture ceramic art, based on archaeological prototypes. The have a slick interactive display that allows the visitor to look at different sherds under a microscope, and display the image of clay paste and temper on a large screen for comparing different pottery construction techniques. I was covetous.
Spring 2019 also saw additions to the community of scholars working on Angel Mounds projects. The office of the Vice President for Research has commenced a new project to add capacity for researching, preserving, interpreting, and promoting Angel Mounds deposits and collections. The project, or Angel Mounds Initiative (AMI), allies and aligns with work done through GBL, and through IU’s Office of NAGPRA.
Dr. Ed Herrmann, of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, directs these special projects. He has several years of experience working at Angel Mounds and other Midwestern sites, with expertise in geoarchaeology, remote sensing, and environmental reconstruction in Indiana and far abroad.
We also welcome Dr. Christina Friberg, who has joined the AMI as a post-doctoral scholar, having finished her doctoral work on Mississippian lifeways in the greater Cahokia region at University of California-Santa Barbara. Drs. Ed and Christina are working to aggregate all the data generated for Angel Mounds through the decades (a monumental task), build maps using GIS, coordinate the completion of technical reports, and assist where possible with curation efforts.
This all has made the GBL a very exciting and happening place, with repatriation, curation, and dissemination work all going on simultaneously, with Angel Mounds at the center.
Click here to read a message from Curator Melody Pope.
In August, the Learning NAGPRA project held its third and final collegium meeting on the campus of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The group was assembled from across North America, from Washington State to Washington, D.C. Three days of meetings solidified curriculum materials to be used in college courses, case studies and web-based training, which will become available for use in spring 2018. We toured the art storage, curation, and museum studies teaching facilities at IAIA. We rounded out the trip with a visit to Saint Dominic Feast Day at Kewa Pueblo, where hundreds of dancers celebrated and many homes opened their doors to feed visitors delicious meals. Many thanks go out to our hosts for the meeting, Jessie Ryker-Crawford and Felipe Colón, faculty of the Museum Studies Program at IAIA.
The American Library Association (ALA) conference was held in Chicago, Illinois, June 22-27 at McCormick’s Place. This is my second time attending the ALA conference and it still feels HUGE. I’m so incredibly grateful that I get to attend and hear the amazing things that are happening in libraries and archives all over the country (and, really, the world). The city is wonderful and I enjoyed my time just tooling around different bookshops and museums before the conference began. At McCormick’s Place, I attended sessions on instructing as a librarian; inclusion across libraries, archives, and museums; outreach practices; and giving voice to diverse collections through digitization. We have big dreams for the Kellar Library and assisting those who could use our incredible document collections. Look out for new developments in our library, coming soon!
GBL staff had a busy fall conference season.
Curator Melody Pope, along with Director April Sievert, Collections Manger Jennifer St. Germain, Librarian Kelsey Grimm, and Registrar Terry Harley-Wilson, presented, “Confronting Collections at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology for the 21st Century” in a symposium titled “Archaeological Collections Management in the Midwest During the Curation Crisis,” at the 61st Annual Meeting of the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Inc., in Indianapolis. Pope and Graduate student Molly Mesner also presented a paper at the Midwest Archaeological Conference, “Polishing Our Understanding: Microwear Analysis at the Mann Site.”
A few weeks later we were off to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 74th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference where Pope and Sievert co-organized with former-GBL Curator Dru McGill a curation symposium titled “Innovative and Best Practice Approaches to Legacy Collections-Based Research in the Southeast.” Both Pope and Sievert also contributed papers in the symposium. Pope presented “From Research to Exhibit Development and Beyond: Unleashing the Impact of Legacy Collections at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology,” and Sievert presented “Repatriation, Records, and the Legacies of Collecting.”
“The acknowledgements of women working in archaeology has notably flourished in recent memory, but who were the pioneering American women of our profession?” (from the Abstract of “Women at Work: Acknowledging Women’s Legacy in Archaeology”). Click here to read more about the poster symposium our Librarian, Kelsey, and Leslie Drane organized at this year’s Midwestern Archaeological Conference.
We’re almost done cataloging our general collection of books! This process started last year and was greatly aided by two Jesse H. and Beulah Chanley Cox Scholar awardees who spent eight hours each per week working on copy-cataloging our books. We are organizing our collection according to the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system which groups similar subjects together. Our catalog of books has been made available online, too! This means anyone can search our collection of books by title, author, subject, publishing year from the comfort of their home. Just visit our LibraryThing catalog to see for yourself!
The Glenn A. Black Lab accepted several donated collections over the summer and fall:
The Charles Theodore Jacobs Collections
The family of Charles Theodore Jacobs donated field notes and photographs from the personal papers of Charles Jacobs, who was a member of the 1949 Angel Mounds field school. This donation was very timely and will be a great contribution to the Angel Mounds Field School Archive. Click here to read more about Charles Jacobs’ archaeology adventures.
The Timmy Kendall Collection
Timmy Kendall donated his collection of 28 projectile points that he had collected during his tenure at Purdue University where we conducted agricultural field research between 1975 and 1977. During his field inspections we collected projectile points from the surface of sites in Tippecanoe County. Mr. Kendall’s points will be integrated into our projectile point comparative collection.
The Kent Vickery Collection
Kent Vickery (1942-2011) earned his doctorate in Anthropology at Indiana University in 1976. His dissertation is titled “An Approach to Inferring Archaeological Variability.” He retired as Professor of Anthropology from the University of Cincinnati. Collections and field records from some of his early field work in Indiana conducted at Mounds State Park, Yankeetown, Angel Mounds, and the Mann site were transferred from the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology to the GBL in late November. Thanks to DHPA staff Rachel Sharkey, Megan Copenhaver, and DNR Forestry Archaeologist A.J. Ariens for facilitating the transfer.
The GBL curates federal collections for the USDA Hoosier National Forest and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division (NSWC). Over the summer and fall we received three survey collections from Hoosier National Forest and two survey collections from NSWC.
In an ongoing effort to reclaim the beauty of traditional Shawnee pottery, a collaboration was launched between archaeologists, scholars, and tribal members to rediscover the ancient ceramic technologies that were disrupted by European colonization. This resulting pottery was on display at the Glenn Black Lab as part of the 2016 Themester.
In keeping with the Themester 2017 theme of “Diversity, Difference, Otherness,” Glenn Black Lab staff, Native historians, and scholars collaborated to create an exhibit that demonstrated Indiana’s representation in maps. It juxtaposes images of examples of EuroAmerican-made maps and images of indigenous representations of the Indiana and Ohio Valley landscapes, in order to point out how problematic it is to favor western world views and ways of knowing over others.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the GBL, and the bicentennial anniversaries of the State of Indiana, Monroe County, and Indiana University, we feel that there has been no better time to emphasize local archaeological research and resources.
To explore the deeper history of Bloomington and wider Monroe County, the GBL initiated a survey project during the summer of 2017 to identify and document new archaeological sites in the region. The GBL received a grant award from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. This grant enabled GBL Associate Research Scientist Elizabeth Watts Malouchos and a crew of intrepid students to investigate eight previously unsurveyed nature preserves in the Bean Blossom Creek drainage basin in the northern half of Monroe County. Although the Bean Blossom Creek survey is still ongoing, thus far the crew has surveyed a great deal of acreage, dug over 1600 shovel test pits, and identified just over 50 new archaeological sites ranging in origin from the Archaic to Historic Periods. In the process, students have gained experience and learned new skills in survey methodology, archaeological excavations, artifact identification and processing, avoiding yellow jackets, and charming neighbor dogs. It has certainly been a successful and enjoyable summer and fall of fieldwork!
Volunteer and Student Appreciation
Bicentennial Intern: Maclaren Guthrie
Collections: Colin Gliniecki, Oliver Hourihan, Darlene McDermott, Jennifer Musgrave, and Catherine Smith
Library: Logan Carte and Lydia Lutz
Programming: Hannah Rea
Collections: Marge Faber and Pat Harris
Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!