A Letter from Eli Lilly

April 2, 2018

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

One of my favorite types of primary sources to work with are letters.  Mostly, I love the language.  You can tell a lot about a person from how they write and to whom they write it.  If it’s to a business partner, maybe they’re more formal.  To a spouse, more affectionate.  To a friend, light-hearted and cordial.

In this case, I’m reading a letter written by Eli Lilly to Ida Black.  Eli and Ruth Lilly were friends of Glenn and Ida Black, and played an important role in the excavation of the Angel Mounds site and Indiana archaeology at large.

The letter –written August 24, 1965, from Lilly’s cottage in Syracuse, Indiana– concerns the founding of the Glenn Black Lab, the fate of Angel Mounds, and the destination of the artifacts discovered there.  It came to the GBL as part of a donation by the family of Glenn and Ida Black.

Lilly begins by wishing Ida well, and seems regretful that he is unable to relay the contents of the letter in person.  The friendship between the two is clear in his frankness; Lilly makes it clear that he did his best to take both Ida and Glenn’s (Glenn died September 2, 1964) wishes to heart, but ultimately did not have the final say in the decision.

He speaks of negotiations with the state and with Indiana University, and assures Ida the site will not be neglected.  In a helpfully numbered list, he details the steps of the thinking process.

The site will not be abused, he says, and it will be kept out of the hands of politicians who might not have its best interests at heart.  There will be attempts to interest Indiana University in the property, and the artifacts.

Later, he mentions his intention to build a memorial lab to Glenn Black, which likely will be on IU’s Bloomington campus. (The GBL did indeed end up in Bloomington, and would be opened April 21, 1971.) Lilly is sure Glenn would approve of the strategy, and its protection of both the artifacts of Angel and the site itself.

It’s interesting to look back at this letter, with our founding day fast approaching, and get a glimpse into the process of opening the GBL.

While the handwriting is a bit difficult to decipher in parts, it does not diminish from the importance of the letter, nor the kind words the Lillys have for Ida Black.  It also gives you a sense that you’re holding history in your hands, a feeling that’s almost beyond words.

There are bound copies of this letter available for viewing in our lobby; if you’re interested in reading the full text, I recommend you come check them out!

Trip to Angel Mounds

March 6, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

Frances Martin’s slide collection and journals.

On the table in front of us lay journals filled with Frances Martin’s neat scribbles, letters tightly packed, as many as she could fit on a single page.  Pages of notes and sketches of pots and figurines and axe heads found during the digs.

Binders of Martin’s personal slide collection, held up to the light to reveal the faces that match names we’ve seen over and over in our collections and archive material.  Some smiling, others stoic.  Records of pots and stone tablets and figurines.  Obsidian points.

A letter sent by Glenn A. Black to accepted members of the field schools, which ran from the 1940s to the ‘60s.  “What you may do in Evansville or Newburgh, if you are of legal age, is of course your own concern, but I do expect you not to bring criticism upon this camp.”

This past Friday, several members of the GBL staff –Librarian Kelsey Grimm, Curation Team Members Alex Elliott and Bailey Foust, and Programming/Social Media Intern Hannah Rea– traveled down to Angel Mounds to explore their collections and answer some of the reoccurring questions we’d had.

Hannah Rea, Alex Elliott, Kelsey Grimm and Bailey Foust at Angel Mounds.

We met with the manager of the site, Mike Linderman, whose office is crowded with memorabilia ranging from replicas of the various iterations of the Enterprise from “Star Trek,” to plaques honoring Glenn Black.

He laid the material he had on the table in front of us, spreading it out so we could get a good look at the treasures we’d been seeking.  He laughed as our eyes lit up in excitement, when we squealed in delight as he produced plaster models we’d seen only in photographs.  Called us “Glenn groupies.”

He’s one to talk –he lives in Glenn and Ida’s house, on the edge of the property.

Alex Elliott, Bailey Foust and Kelsey Grimm looking at Mike Linderman’s laptop.

We huddled over Mike’s shoulder, staring intently at his laptop as he flicked through the digitized photos from Frances Martin’s collection.  Martin was one of the women working at Angel Mounds during its excavations, though few official written records of her work there remain.  We have her journals, and we have photos –so many photos.

We gasped at faces we recognized, artifacts we have in our collections.  Laughed at the stories that accompanied each photo, which made the people within come alive.

Pointing at the screen at a figure in white leaning on the railing of a cruise ship, hand raised in a wave, on a trip the Blacks took with Eli and Ruth Lilly to New Orleans: “There’s Lilly.”

Smiling, to a photo of an excavator tilted at a strange angle on a muddy drive, a man standing to the side with his hands on his hips, during the construction of the Interpretive Center at Angel: “Their truck is stuck in a rut.”

Mike took us around the site in a vehicle they’d gotten free from Toyota (though they weren’t allowed to leave the site, as it had a VIN number of ‘0’), slipping around the muddy grass and pointing out clumps of yellow flowers, explaining that Ida planted daffodils along the front of the barracks and all across the site.

Daffodils planted by Ida Black.

The buds emerged tentatively from the cold ground, which had been snowed on just the day before, even though the buildings they’d lined were long gone.

“She left her mark on the site,” Mike said.  Just as Glenn’s name marks much of the material in the exhibits of the Interpretive Center, and local memory recalls him to be somewhat of a celebrity around the area, in her own way, Ida remains.

She had quite a green thumb –much of the backyard of the Blacks’ house and even the field across the street were once full of her flowers.  There are many a photo of her, smiling sweetly, in front of them.

Ida Black in 1946, from a collection donated by the family of Glenn A. and Ida Black.

That field is covered in trees now, as is much of the surrounding area.  Lines of houses and trailer parks, squished together to create the neighborhoods of Evansville, occupy what was once acres of open land.  “Glenn and Ida wouldn’t recognize the place, now,” Mike said thoughtfully, as we drove along the extent of the land which made up the site.

On the opening page of one of Frances Martin’s diary, there’s a quote: “Man in the form of several successive physical and cultural variations of the American Indian has lived in Indiana for many hundreds of years.”

And man, varied in many ways and across many cultural identities, continues to.

Some of their history is preserved at the Angel Mounds and, walking there, you get a feeling that you can almost hear them speaking.

They’re asking us not to forget them and, through studying sites like Angel, we won’t.