From the Desk of the Curator

From the desk of the curator

April 25, 2019

This winter and spring saw a flurry of activity on the lower level of the lab, including several upgrades to accommodate the work we will be doing to rehouse the Angel Mounds collections. With support from the Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Research, new electrical circuits were installed and a new air scrubber and additional dehumidifiers were purchased.  Rehousing the Angel Mounds Collection and moving the collections to ALF3 will be the focus of much of our work over the next three years.  The curation team has been doing extensive background research to understand how the collection was organized, assembling documents to aid in rehousing, building out databases, purchasing supplies, and conducting pilot rehousing test runs to develop work flows.  Collections assistant and Underwater Archaeology student Amanda Pavot has been writing blog posts on the pre-project work for a museum practicum project. You can find Amanda’s posts at The Dirt, the GBL’s blog. Blogs on the Rehousing Angel Mounds Project will continue over the duration of the project, so be sure to follow the project on our website and social media. Over the winter, the curation staff also processed three loans to IUPUI, two in partnership with Hoosier National Forest.  Researchers and students affiliated with IUPUI will work on collections to complete reports for the 2013 Angel Mounds field school, a pioneer homestead on HNF land, and will complete work on parts of the Rock House Hollow collection for a HNF NAGPRA request.

The GBL collections staff participated in several educational events and outreach activities. Professor Susan Alt’s Midwest Archaeology students were able to work with four collections over the course of the semester for hands-on-learning.  We also provided artifacts, images and consulting for the Indiana Historical Society exhibit, You Are There, 1939 Excavating Angel Mounds exhibit that opened in March 2019. Various staff members participated in the 2019 IU Powwow, Lotus Blossoms, and School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering Internship Fair; and conducted tours of our facility for Anthropology, SPEA, and Underwater Archaeology program classes.

Members of GBL staff with visiting educators Scott Bauserman and Rick Doss

Scott Bauserman, with the Westlane Middle School in Indianapolis, brought down a large artifact collection owned by the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township.  Our staff provided assistance to rebox the collections for its safe transport back to Indianapolis. 

I used the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives personal papers of Glenn Black and Eli Lilly to research the early archaeology of Glenn Black and Eli Lilly at Angel Mounds for a paper presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.  You can access information about the symposia presentations here.

Melody Pope, Curator


The Angel Rehousing project is made possible in part by the support of
the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In September 2018, the GBL received 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 IMLS.

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.

NAGPRA in the Archives

October 23, 2018

by Kelsey Grimm, Librarian

Early this month I had the fortune to attend the 11th Annual International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museum in Prior Lake, Minnesota. This is a wonderful conference all around and brings together those who work to protect and advance indigenous cultures. There are day trips and workshops in the days leading up to and a variety of sessions during the two day conference. This was my second time attending.

The session that most piqued my interest occurred on the second day: “NAGPRA in the Archives: Repatriating Records” presented by Meghan Dorey of the Myaamia Heritage Museum & Archive and Joe Halloran and Jeff Holth of Jacobson Law Group.

My job as Librarian of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology means that I had to quickly learn about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). I haven’t directly had to understand the law, but most of my colleagues are in constant communication with the NAGPRA office of Indiana University. They are working with several native communities to repatriate ancestors and associated objects. Because of these NAGPRA conversations concerning the archaeological collections, the GBL has been able to collaborate and partner with these native communities on other projects, some that directly have benefited the library and archives. NAGPRA is something that I’ve been aware of, but not had to directly understand.

Throughout “NAGPRA in the Archives,” Meghan Dorey, Joe Halloran, and Jeff Holth told the story of how two Miami Council Books were returned to the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

Upon taking the job of Myaamia Heritage Museum & Archive Manager, Meghan found a file of photocopied documents titled Miami Council Books of the mid-19th century. It was useful at the time just as a reference document, but eventually Meghan wanted to find out where the physical documents were. Her personal research led her to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma…90 miles from the Myaamia Heritage Museum in Miami, Oklahoma. Within the Thomas Richardville manuscript collection she found the Miami National Council Book (1860-1862). When visiting the collection to obtain better digital images of the Book, a staff member went to bring the book to Meghan and instead brought a second Miami Council Book!*

When Meghan returned, she believed that these items should be returned to the Miami Tribe. They were detailed accounts of tribal affairs, records of meetings, and copies of letters. She did more research and presented her thoughts to the Tribe’s leaders. They agreed and contacted their legal representatives. It was decided to just ask the Gilcrease Museum if they would return the Miami Council Books to the Miami Nation – unsurprisingly, they replied no.

This led to a two-year process of collecting information and preparing a case for why the Miami Council Books should be returned to the Tribe. They discussed using replevin to obtain the documents – a procedure enabling the recovery of property taken wrongfully or unlawfully, pending a final determination by a court of law – a procedure used by the National Archives Records Administration of the United States. The second option was by using NAGPRA.

NAGPRA is legislation that provides institutions receiving federal funding with a process for transferring Native American cultural items – human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony – to lineal descendants and federally recognized tribes. An object of cultural patrimony is an object that possesses continuing cultural, traditional, or historical importance to the heritage of a group. Think about what the Declaration of Independence means to the United States… it is not owned by a single person; it represents the history of a nation. It is a document, yes, but it is an object of cultural patrimony too.

The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma was preparing to take their case before the NAGPRA Review Committee. They are not the official deciding body, their decisions are not legally binding, but they do hold a kind of weight – a precedent would be set if they were to decide if a document/manuscript were an object of cultural patrimony.

Days before the review hearing, the Gilcrease Museum returned the Miami Council Books to the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. This was outside of any legal or official system. The NAGPRA Review Committee therefore decided to not review the case since the materials had been returned. No precedent has been set on the matter of documents being repatriated.

What does any of this mean to you?

NAGPRA legislation is not taught in library and archive settings.

I would hazard that most archivists have not even heard of NAGPRA. It is nowhere on their radar, unless they happen to be affiliated with a museum working to repatriate Native American ancestors and funerary objects. NAGPRA has been focused on ancestors and funerary objects, not documents, not records. Should they?

I don’t have those answers yet, fully, but believe archivists need to be aware of NAGPRA. It might mean repatriating documents to tribes, but it might not. It means bringing the tribes to the table. It means better understanding the collections we’re tasked with preserving.

 

*As a side note, archival finding aids do not usually list every item within the collection. Finding aids are general inventories to give a potential research the idea of what might be found in the collection… not to list every item. It is not unusual to see that a staff member did not initially bring the correct item.

The GBL Goes to MAC

October 9, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media/Outreach

An archaeological conference is an interesting experience for a non-archaeologist. As a social media/outreach person who’s always wanted to attend an academic conference, I decided to tag along to this year’s Midwestern Archaeological Conference (MAC) to post about the experience, and satisfy my own curiosity.

Thursday night was a reception, great for running into colleagues you hadn’t seen in years, to catch up and learn about research done in Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology, the setting of the gathering.

Friday was the first major day of symposiums and poster sessions. It was smaller than previous years, and therefore had an intimate atmosphere as one had more time to peruse the research and ask questions of the presenters. The presenters themselves came from universities and agencies from across the Midwest, and included our own Liz Watts Malouchos and Maclaren Guthrie, who presented on themes of the IU Bicentennial and Wylie House excavation.

Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic, and willing to answer any questions about their research. I attended my first symposium, a series of presentations along a central theme, in the morning; each presenter was similarly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and educated the audience on their current research and future plans.

Saturday, Day 3, was packed with poster presentations and symposiums, and last-minute catching up with colleagues and friends as attendees began to leave town. It’s interesting, as a non-archaeologist, to learn about things I wouldn’t normally encounter. It helps to contextualize terminology I’ve heard in passing, and see how it’s applied in research and fieldwork of others in the region.

There was a recurring theme of conversation, and how necessary discussion was between those within and outside of the region. Outreach to communities and to other academics is necessary for interpretation of data, and meaningful utilization.

In sum, it was an interesting experience. I’m glad I, as an associate of archaeologists, had the experience to view the inner workings of the Midwestern archaeological community.