From the Desk of the Director

From the desk of the director

April 25, 2019

Panorama of display area in the new Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center
Jayne-Leigh Thomas

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.

Ben Barnes and Ft. Ancient pottery

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.

Ed Herrmann

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.

Christina Friberg

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.

April Sievert, Director

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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.)

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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.)

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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.)

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Spring 2018 Newsletter

From the Desk of the Curator

Click here to read a message from Curator Melody Pope.


Collections News

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe received a grant from the Institute of Museum Library Services (IMLS) to digitize documents in the Great Lake Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection, a tribal history series related to their tribe.  As part of this grant, the GBL hosted two Shawnee archivists for a week-long workshop on archives preservation and access.

The GBL accessioned two new donations to its library collections, and four new donations to its archaeological collections.

Library Acquisitions

IU Lilly House Transfer Donation

GBL staff coordinated with the IU President’s Office and staff of the Eli and Ruth Allison Lilly House, the IU President’s Indianapolis residence, to transfer the Lilly Map to the James H. Kellar Library in February.  The Lilly Map is a “Map of Indiana” published by the National Map Company in the early 1900s. Mounted in a wooden frame, Eli Lilly, likely with help from Glenn Black, marked locations of different types of archaeological sites using color-coded pushpins. It is the first map to depict the locations of known archaeological sites in Indiana, now something accomplished with GIS with a click of a mouse. We are currently researching the map and planning to have it digitally scanned, photographed and eventually displayed at the GBL.  GBL Librarian Kelsey Grimm provides additional information on the map in an Artifact Spotlight feature on our webpage, check it out!

The Constance Strawn Donation

Constance Strawn, a former IU student, donated a collection of technological drawings and employee newsletters from the Goodman Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois.  The newsletters date to the 1940s and are a fascinating source of social commentary by the company employees.  Also included in the donation are a set of blueprints from the Liquid Carbonic Corporation. Ms. Strawn acquired these items in the early 2000s.  See the GBL official blog The Dirt for a short post on the newsletters, “Electrical Mining” by GBL Librarian Kelsey Grimm!

Archaeology Acquisitions

The Garre Conner Donation

Garre Conner of Evansville, Indiana donated a handstone he found while hiking in the bed of Little Indian Creek in Monroe County.

The James L. Heflin Donation

James L. Heflin of Greenburg, Indiana donated archaeological collections from Phase I survey and Phase II testing at six Shelby County sites documented during archaeological survey for the Rockies Express Pipeline, LLC.  The survey, conducted between March of 2007 and May of 2008, documented both pre-contact and EuroAmerican sites on property owned by the Heflin family.

The Elizabeth A. York Donation

Elizabeth A. York of Ellettsville, Indiana donated a pre-Columbian ceramic bottle and whistle.  Acquired in the early 1900’s by family members then associated with Malena Corporation Pharmaceuticals, established by Chauncey F. York, Elizabeth York was pleased to donate these items to the GBL, where they are currently on display in our lobby.

The Marcia Staser Donation

The family of Marcia Staser donated two Peruvian ceramic vessels.  Marcia Staser acquired the vessels in 1968 in the Zappallel region, near Lima.

Research requests and inquiries prompted a number of dives into the archaeology and archives collections. Staff worked with Mike Strezewski, University of Southern Indiana, to select carbon samples for radiometric dating in support of Strezewski’s new research initiative focused on the Middle Woodland Mann phase in Indiana.  Discoidals from several early Clark County Mississippian period collections were located for a research publication that Cheryl Munson is working on.  A request from David Dye from the University of Memphis sent us into the Eli Lilly Papers in the archives with the hopes of finding provenance information for two Mississippian bowls in the Lilly Collection previously studied by southeastern archaeologist, Philip Phillips. This inquiry also led us to the Indiana Historical Society Papers housed at the GBL.  Although we have yet to trace the history of these two particular vessels, reading Glenn Black’s weekly correspondence to the Indiana Historical Society revealed a wealth of information on Indiana archaeology and its administration during the first half of the 20th century, a research topic our curatorial staff will be pursing in the near future.

This spring we provided a copy of the George Winter painting, The Council of Keewaunay, on display in the GBL lobby, to the Smithsonian for a traveling exhibit.  We also provided images of Glenn Black to the Indiana Historical Society for an article on Black in their member magazine, INPerspective.


Trips and conferences

In early January GBL, staff attended the Miami Winter Gathering in Miami, Oklahoma.  In April, several staff members attended the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, held in Washington, D.C.  Several IU graduate students involved with the Learning NAGPRA Project gave presentations and GBL Archaeology Fellow Amanda Burtt co-chaired the symposium Innovative Approaches to Human-Canine Interactions. The D.C. meeting also provided opportunities for the GBL curator and collections manager to participate in collections-oriented workshops, to tour many of the Smithsonian Museums and take in the spring weather and beautiful cherry blossoms. Another D.C. highlight was the chance to see the current installation of Cars at the Capital, a 1984 Plymouth Voyager, the first Chrysler minivan. Who knew that there is a National Historic Vehicle Register (NHVR)?!

A 1984 Plymouth Voyager, part of the ‘Cars at the Capital’ exhibit on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The front of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.


Exhibits

Out With the Old: “Women in Archaeology”

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Glenn A. Black Lab of Archaeology created an exhibit to pay tribute to the archaeological efforts of the women of our past.  The exhibit was split into two parts: the first, a physical wall of photos in the GBL lobby; the second, a larger, digital collection of photos, with longer captions detailing the subject matter.  The photos were made available as part of an ongoing digitization effort by our media team.

In With the New: “Hats in Archaeology”

Produced in conjunction with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures 2018 exhibit “Heads and Tales,” our exhibit “Hats of Archaeology” takes a look at the various head fashions used in Indiana archaeology throughout the last century. The hats may not have been chosen explicitly to make a statement, but by looking at these photographs from our collection, we can get a sense of how people thought about clothing throughout the last century.


Field Work

Field work and artifact analysis for the Bean Blossom Creek survey are wrapping up. Over 50 new sites spanning the Archaic Period through recent history were recorded, documenting northern Monroe County’s occupation from 8000 BCE through the 1960s.

The GBL is also gearing up for a summer field school and excavations at Wylie House museum to celebrate IU’s Bicentennial. In order to remotely locate subterranean greenhouses built in the 1860s for Rebecca Wylie, the GBL has partnered with Todd Thompson, Director of the Indiana Geological and Water Survey, to perform a ground-penetrating radar survey in front lawn of the Wylie House. Interpretations are still pending data processing, but preliminary results indicate a ground disturbance in the location of the greenhouses.


Past events

We had a great time at the Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar and the 7th Annual Powwow.  Thanks for coming out to see us!

We also had fun celebrating IU Day.  We’re so grateful to be part of this amazing community of museums and institutions.

Follow us on social media for photos!  And don’t forget to check out our new series on Instagram — each Friday we share a different artifact!

Twitter Instagram Facebook


Best of Blogs

Here are some great pieces written by staff and students this semester:

“A Point in Time” by Isabel Osmundsen

“The Importance of Archaeology from the Not So Distant Past” by Aaron Estes


Volunteer and Intern Appreciation

The GBL was pleased to host two museum practicum students this spring.  Wells Scholar Victoria Kvitek worked as a collections care assistant and was able to gain valuable hands-on experience preparing new donations for storage and assisting with the relocation of the over-sized collection.

Anthropology graduate student Molly Mesner rehoused the lithic artifacts from the 1967 expedition to the Mann site led by GBL’s first director, Jim Kellar.

Darlene McDermott volunteered her time this semester to continue her practicum project from the fall, completing catalog information for the whole vessel collection.

Anthropology graduate student Catherine Smith and business and history major Colin Gliniecki worked on Angel Mounds documentation for repatriation.

Selena McCracken, information and library science graduate student, is digitizing the Shawnee tribal history documents, and Logan Carte, Cox Scholar Intern, assisted with cataloging the Jonathan Reyman collection of southwest archaeology books.

Hannah Rea, journalism and history major, volunteered her time to coordinate our social media blogs and posts, and to publish our newsletter.

Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!

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Creepy-Crawly Curation

October 4, 2017

Bugs: most people aren’t fans of them.  But you may not realize they actually play a role in the curation of museum collections.

At least identifying and dealing with them does.

It’s necessary for museum staff to know what threats are present in collections, so, once a year, a GBL staff member volunteers (or is volunteered) for the somewhat gruesome job of collecting bug traps and ID’ing the creepy crawlies inside.

This year, Collections Assistant Alex Elliott took on the project.

There were 14 traps set out throughout the collections in the GBL basement, put out on June 1, 2016, and replaced August 30, 2017.  There were a few different types of bugs found, which provided an opportunity to see to what extent bugs were posing a threat to the collections, and to learn what the bugs can tell us about the environments of our facility.

For example, some types of bugs are drawn to moisture, and others to dark, dry spaces.  Each requires a slightly different approach in treatment, and this acts as another source of information about issues like humidity inside the collections areas.

Take sprickets (also known as Cave Crickets): they are attracted to moisture, and the fact that they were found could mean there is a moisture problem in a particular area.  This discovery led Alex to recommend weather stripping for the garage door for a tighter preventative seal.

“I do think this is an important skill for anyone with collections to care for,” Alex said. “And, if nothing else, it was interesting to see online that most collecting institutions have similar pest problems!”

While it doesn’t seem like something you’d initially think about, the presence of bugs is something every museum and institution has to deal with.  And, as Alex pointed out, it’s a great learning experience.

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