Spring 2020 Newsletter

From the desk of the IUMAA Director

Click here to read a message from the Executive Director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Ed Herrman.

From the desk of the GBL Director

Click here to read a message from the GBL Director, April Sievert.

From the desk of the GBL Curator

Click here to read a message from GBL Curator, Melody Pope.

This Semester at the GBL!

Getting Our Move On

Jennifer St. Germain, Collections Manager

When the Glenn Black Lab first opened its doors in 1971, it became the new home for two important collections. These consisted of the 2 million artifacts excavated from Angel Mounds under the direction of Glenn Black and a collection of over 400,000 artifacts transferred from the Indiana Historical Society. The GBL’s collections have grown significantly in the five decades since then and now total over 5 million artifacts and specimens. The collections also include associated records, reports, photographs, maps, films, field notebooks, library resources, archives, and other forms of documentation that chronicle the history of research and curation activities at the GBL.

There are also a large number of people for whom these collections hold meaning and value, including students, staff, researchers, tribal partners, volunteers, school groups and other patrons. Moving the collections safely from the building is a responsibility we undertake on behalf of them all.


Our enormous task officially began in October of 2019 when plans for major renovations to the building were announced to coincide with the merger of the GBL with the Mathers Museum. Planning the move included creating spreadsheets, timelines, and long lists of needed supplies. The entire staff chipped in to quantify the volumes of collections and materials in every space, identify appropriate boxes and packing materials, hire and train new assistants, and help get this move off the ground.

Large mobile carts were purchased and assembled to help transport more than 6000 artifact boxes to an offsite storage facility. Prior to moving, every box has to be evaluated, weighed, and barcoded for tracking in our collections management system. Heavier boxes over 35 lbs are split into multiple boxes to meet new shelf weight restrictions, and most boxes are padded out with ethafoam or other protective materials to better cushion artifacts for transportation (Fig. 1). The completed boxes are then loaded onto mobile carts, transported to our interim storage location, and re-shelved onto barcoded shelving units, often with the assistance of a mobile hydraulic lift. Between November of 2019 and when facilities closed for Covid-19 in March of 2020, the staff and students had moved nearly 3,800 boxes, totaling over 35 tons of artifacts! A special note of thanks goes to our collections assistants, Amanda Pavot, Noah Sandweiss, and Cally Steussy, who shouldered (literally!) much of this box moving work.

Prior to our closure due to COVID, we also started photographing and measuring our extensive collection of ceramic vessels before they get packed (Fig 2). These images and dimensions will help IUMAA staff plan for exhibits, research, and new storage and display solutions over the next few years.
Although the work of packing and moving collections has been suspended, we’ve continued to work remotely on renovation blueprints, new storage layouts, database updates, and other plans for the merger and future reopening as IUMAA. Moving the GBL collections may be challenging, but the renovation work and greatly improved storage conditions and workspaces will be well-worth the effort.

Collections Updates

Amanda Burtt

As assistant curator, I have worked closely with Dr. Melody Pope during the spring 2020 semester to help supervise both the Saving America’s Treasures – Angel Mounds Rehousing Project and with packing the type collection for the approaching move. Both projects rely heavily on student hourly workers and I have had the privilege of working with an amazing group of IU grads and undergrads. We accomplished a lot before we had to shut down for the Covid 19 pandemic. When the spring semester began, the SAT team passed the awesome milestone of finishing rehousing all faunal remains from the Angel Mounds site! We began working with the faunal material in the summer of 2019 and have had help from many dedicated students. While rehousing the fauna, we also began a type collection for Angel fauna, which essentially is a collection of extraordinary animal
bones (bears, cougars, raptor, etc.), interesting pathologies, or especially complete specimens. Additionally, the SAT crew identified 29 individual specimens of domestic dogs that will be investigated as part of my dissertation research. I am teaming up with Dr. David Polly and the IU Grand Challenges initiative to have isotopic analysis done on the dog remains to better understand the diets of dogs at Angel Mounds.

Since finishing the faunal rehousing, the SAT crew moved on to ceramics. We were all well trained and running smoothly with ceramic rehousing when we closed for the pandemic. Before closing, Dr. Pope and I established protocols for packing the type collection and had several students trained. We made good progress in a short time, likely due to the exceptional students who
were assisting the project.

While working remotely, my efforts have concentrated on organizing documents for future SAT work that will help streamline the project once it resumes. I have also been investigating application software for use in the new IU MAA. This new technology is evolving and there are a lot of exciting options to be considered.

Besides working on all the important GBL projects, I continue to work on my dissertation. In April, a volume that I both coedited and contributed a chapter, Dogs: Archaeology Beyond Domestication was published with the University Press of Florida. Very exciting! Currently, I am preparing a manuscript on wolf dietary behavior to be submitted this month, also very exciting!

Library

Kelsey Grimm, Librarian

In preparation for the renovations of our building and merger into IUMAA (prior to quarantine), the library collections were busy being packed into boxes! As of March 20th, 563 boxes of materials were packed and housed on shelves ready to be moved. As soon as we can get physically get back to work packing will resume, and then most of the library collections will be moved alongside the archaeological collections at the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF).

Image down library aisle full of brown boxes.
Library collections in boxes (March 2020, photo courtesy Kelsey Grimm

No worries, though! Researchers will still have access to the materials while moved out… we’ll just need a few days lead to time to pull and transport them for you!

Congratulations! Dr. Watts Malouchos!

GBL Research Scientist, Liz Watts Malouchos, successfully defended her dissertation on May 5th. Her dissertation, Assembling Mississippian Communities: Integration and Identities in the Angel Hinterlands, explores relationships between the Angel Mounds center and outlying sites in the southwestern Indiana region. She conducted a non-invasive magnetic survey of the Stephan-Steinkamp site in Posey County, Indiana and detected at least 83 houses at the site. She also undertook targeted excavations of houses and domestic features. She found that one quarter of all the known houses in the countryside were precisely oriented in the same direction as Mound A and Mound F, the oldest mounds at Angel, and were aligned to the movements of the moon. She also noted a unique region-wide practice in which Mississippian Angel peoples collected millennia old stone tools from local Middle Woodland period sites for recycling and reuse. She argues that the lunar alignment of regional houses and mounds and reuse of ancient stone tools were integral practices for creating and maintaining Angel group identities and relationships across the region.

Image of woman holding piece of pottery as if explaining it.
Dr. Elizabeth Watts Malouchos

Volunteers, Student Workers, and Part Timers!

Thanks to all of those who worked with us this semester:

Archaeological:

  • Mackenzie Cory
  • Ariel Creal
  • Carley Divish
  • James Edens
  • Preet Gill
  • Mara Gordon
  • Maclaren Guthrie
  • Conner Hayes
  • Anne Hittson
  • Grace Nelson
  • Amanda Pavot
  • Karrigan Perkins
  • Ryan Peterson
  • Jorge Rios Allier
  • Haley Rogers
  • Brenna Roller
  • Noah Sandweiss
  • Emily Schopmeyer
  • Lauren Schumacher
  • Sheree Sievert
  • Matthew Staats
  • Cameron Strause
  • Cally Steussy
  • Evan Weis

Library:

  • Patrick Sovereign

Social Media and Outreach

  • Josie Myers

Be on the lookout for our new social media profiles!

Fall 2019 Newsletter

From the Desk of the IUMAA Director

Click here to read a message from the Executive Director of the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Ed Herrman.

From the Desk of the Director

Click here to read a message from the GBL Director, April Sievert.

From the Desk of the Curator

Click here to read a message from GBL Curator, Melody Pope.

Group of people around artifacts on table in type collection room.
Plains Anthropological Conference tours at GBL (October 2019)

This Semester at the GBL!

Plains Anthropological Conference

The 77th Plains Anthropological Conference was held in Bloomington, Indiana on October 16-19, 2019. The Conference was organized by Dr. Laura L. Scheiber and Amanda Burtt of the Indiana University Anthropology Department. This was the first year the conference was held in Bloomington!

The Plains Anthropological Society promotes the study of North American
Great Plains cultures, and encourages the exchange of ideas and information at its annual Plains Anthropological Conference. The society encouraged papers, posters, and organized sessions on topics related to Anthropology and Ethnohistory on the Great Plains and adjacent regions.

Amanda stands next to her poster "Ripe for Research"
Amanda Burtt at the Plains Anthropological Conference poster session (October 2019)

Poster Session

Amanda Burtt organized a poster session with members of the Saving America’s Treasures Angel Mounds Rehousing Project for the Plains Anthropological Conference. The poster session was titled: Rediscovering Angel Mounds.

Abstract:

Research presented in this poster session highlight the ongoing efforts of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology in rehousing collections from Angel Mounds. Excavations at the Angel Mounds site (12Vg1) conducted during the WPA era recovered more than two million artifacts. With a Federal Save America’s Treasures grant, these collections are being removed from their original paper bags and boxes and upgraded with archival grade bags, tags, and boxes. A team of graduate and undergraduate students have been instrumental in this process, learning about curation practices while rediscovering the material remains of Angel Mounds residents. Posters represent various aspects of curating this legacy collection and the interests of those that have been on the front lines of this exciting project including research on curation practices and community involvement in archaeology, as well as archaeological investigation into food-ways, tool use, and fauna remains from Angel Mounds.

Molly stands next to her poster "Keeping UP with the Collections: issues with documentation of artifacts from Angel Mounds"
Molly Mesner Bleyhl at the PAC poster session (October 2019)

New Collections to the Library & Archives

This summer and fall, the archives have received several marvelous donations! Cheryl Munson brought boxes of records related to her work on GE Mounds; Kevin Crouch donated a few boxes of books and reports to be added to our collections; and Jonathan Reyman, former curator of the Illinois State Museum and member of the GBL Advisory Board, donated the papers of the Feather Distribution Project.

Image from back of lecture hall towards Jonathan Reyman pointing at screen.
Dr. Jonathan Reyman’s lecture on the Feather Distribution Project (September 2019)

The Feather Distribution Project, organized and coordinated by Dr. Reyman, collected over 14 million naturally molted feathers over a 34 year period from around the country to donate for use in the Pueblo nations. This archive of documents will be organized and a finding aid created in the near future!

In the digital-realm, Patrick Sovereign has been digitizing the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Reports of Investigations abstracts and submitting them to Indiana University’s ScholarWorks database. To date he’s uploaded 117 of the more recent report abstracts.

Exhibits

Trowel & Brush Society

In August, a lobby exhibit called Trowel & Brush opened to highlight images and archival materials of past field schools run by Glenn Black. The name comes from The Trowel and Brush Society, which began in 1948 when Glenn Black thought to start an organization made up of those students who had worked at Angel Mounds under his tutelage. This exhibit showcases many images from past field schools at Angel Mounds and remembers the students who were part of this institution’s story.

Animal-Spirit-Human

We said goodbye to our latest Headdy Gallery exhibit this semester. Items were rehoused in November in preparation for the upcoming spring collections move.

You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds

You can still visit the Indiana Historical Society exhibit and interaction about Angel Mounds at the History Center in Indianapolis! Guests are transported back to the Depression era as workers with the Works Projects Administration study Angel Mounds, the once-thriving Mississipian town located in southern Indiana. Learn how archaeologists and workers survey the land, excavated artifacts, and process their findings.

Campus Archaeology Symposium

Organized by Elizabeth Watts Malouchos

On September 6th, 2019, archaeologists from IU campuses across the state and the wider Midwest convened at the Wylie House Museum (WHM) for IU’s first Campus Archaeology Symposium. The Campus Archaeology Symposium was inspired by the recent collaboration between the GBL and WHM to explore early campus landscapes and document and preserve campus cultural heritage at the 1835 home of IU’s first president Andrew Wylie. Funded through IU’s Office of the Bicentennial, the Campus Archaeology Symposium was organized to explore the buried archaeological record of the historic campus and to discuss how to balance university growth with preservation of campus cultural resources.

The symposium has held in the WHM’s Morton C. Bradley Jr. Educational Center, a restored 19th century barn, the perfect setting steeped in local history and charm to host our speakers and guests. The symposium started out with a delicious bagel breakfast spread and a welcome from GBL Research Scientist Liz Watts Malouchos. Next, the WHM Director Carey Champion and WHM Outdoor Interpreter Sherry Wise introduced the history of the Wylie House and a missed opportunity for archaeology (the foundation of the original Wylie carriage house was disturbed during a construction project) that inspired the partnership between WHM and the GBL. Then, GBL Director, April Sievert introduced our recent collaborative research project that culminated in a 2018 field school investigating two subterranean greenhouses at Wylie House that were used to overwinter flowers starting in the 1860’s. IUB Anthropology graduate student Molly Mesner Bleyhl presented next and spoke about the unique experiences of learning to do archaeology in a local and familiar landscape. Liz Watts Malouchos followed and provided a summary of the many recent campus archaeology projects at Wylie House and other locations on campus like the Griffy Research and Teaching Preserve and Campus Farm and Hinkle-Garton Farmstead. IU Historian James Capshew presented on the history of place-making at IU and how early students participated in sculpting the IUB natural and cultural landscapes that we know today. To round out the morning, John Summerlot Coordinator for Military and Veteran Services and IU history buff and Spencer Bowman IU undergraduate student and Bicentennial intern discussed their research on IU’s illusive centennial timecapsule buried at the original Seminary Square Campus. Undergraduate students and GBL/WHM interns Lauren Schumacher and Maclaren Guthrie also presented posters on their original research on campus archaeology and material culture at Wylie House.

After a delightful lunch was enjoyed on the lawn next to the WHM garden, the symposium moved to archaeological projects and programs farther afield from our Bloomington campus. Jay VanderVeen from IU South Bend presented on his recent campus excavations and research linking participation in archaeological field schools to increased civic engagement. Paul Mullins from IUPUI followed and shared his research on the displacement of black communities to make way for the downtown Indianapolis campus. Then, Mark Schurr from Notre Dame University described how he combines traditional collegiate field schools with high school field schools to explore UND’s Old College. GBL Curator Melody Pope spoke about campus archaeology projects during her tenure at the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist on the University of Iowa’s campus. Finally, we had the great pleasure of hosting two keynote speakers: Lynne Goldstein, founder of the Michigan State University (MSU) Campus Archaeology Program (CAP) and Stacey Camp, CAP’s current director. MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program is the premier campus cultural resource program and serves as a model for sustainable, successful campus archaeology that we at IUB strive to replicate. Dr. Camp spoke about current CAP initiatives and the benefits of student learning and professionalization through exploring campus archaeology and history. Dr. Goldstein relayed the journey of her work in educating MSU’s administration in the importance of campus cultural heritage and leveraging the foundation of CAP. We here at the GBL were inspired by the interesting research and results of recent IU campus archaeology projects and how our colleagues across the state and at other academic institutions have built and sustained successful campus archaeology programs, preserving university past into the future.

Outreach

D&D and Archaeology

Kelsey Grimm, GBL librarian, hosted a successful event at the Monroe County Public Library in September discussing the connections between Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and archaeology. Archaeogaming is an emerging field of study dedicated to the archaeology both of and within games. Open world games, like Dungeons & Dragons, have culture, civilizations, and a history. Players that have an understanding of basic archaeology concepts can find their gaming experience enriched.

First Thursday

Collaborating with the Wylie House Museum, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology showed off some of the artifacts found during 2018 summer excavations at the Wylie House!

Volunteer and Student Appreciation!

Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!

Collections: Jorge Luis Rios Allier, Ariel Creal, Preet Gill, Maclaren A. Guthrie, Anne Hittson, Victoria Kvitek, Amanda Pavot, Ryan PEterson, Brenna Roller, Noah Sandweiss, Lauren Schumacher, Matthew Staats, Cally Steussy, Cameron Ricci Strause

Library: Patrick Sovereign

Programming: Josie Myers

Follow us on social media:

From the Desk of the Curator

Three images in banner: students working on rehousing artifacts, Curating Angel banner and event, rehoused boxes.

The Curating Angel Rehousing Project, funded through the FY2018 Save America’s Treasures grant program monitored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and National Park Service, began in earnest during the summer and continued into the fall with a team of between 10 and 15 students and staff. At this writing the curating Angel Team, led by Assistant Curator and anthropology graduate student Amanda Burtt, have rehoused 440 boxes of Angel faunal material. The rehousing project will preserve the collection and make it more accessible to researchers, and it is generating new research directions as we “re-excavate” the site through the rehousing process. Nearly every day we learn something new about the history, preservation and research potential of the legacy Angel collections. We have also started to compile zooarchaeology and bone tool comparative collections as part of the rehousing process. Over the summer and fall we got the word out about the rehousing project. In August, April Sievert, and Amanda Burtt took the Curating Angel project on the road to Angel Mounds as part of the sites birthday celebration. Sievert and Pope presented a paper on Curating Angel at the 63rd Annual Midwest Archaeological Conference, and Amanda Burtt organized a poster symposium, “Rediscovering Angel Mounds” for the 77th Annual Plains Anthropological Conference held in Bloomington, which included posters by 11 crew and staff involved with the project. This fall also marked a huge milestone for IU GBL collections. We have deposited 324 rehoused boxes of Angel Mounds collection materials into the new ALF3 repository! Before the end of the year that number will grow substantially!

Over the summer and fall, the archaeology collections received donations to our education collection from Cheryl Munson. We also received a transfer from the DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology of the Wea Village Collection derived from three IUPUI field schools (1986-1988) directed by Rick Jones (former state archaeologist) and Neal Turbowitz. In addition to housing archaeological collections for the state of Indiana. The GBL is also a repository for federal archaeological collections. Over the summer and fall, two USDA Hoosier National Forest collections were transferred to the lab for curation. The curation staff also assisted 24 researchers with access to the collections and provided content for two exhibits, the IU Mobile Museum and the 800 Seasons: Change and Continuity in Bloomington, 1818-2018 exhibit, curated by Eric Sandweiss at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

On the research front, Pope presented findings from a microwear study she conducted on stone tools from several Central Plains sites at the 77th Annual Plains Anthropological Conference, and will follow this with a submission for publication to the journal Plains Anthropologist. Pope also conducted an assessment and pilot microwear study on a sample of end scrapers from the Mulvey Collection, site 12T4. This collection has great potential to inform on the protohistoric and early historic Wea/Miami trade in hides centered on the Middle Wabash valley. Research on the Black-era excavations at Angel Mounds is ongoing, oriented toward developing a collections-based research project focused on Mississippian house trajectories. Plans are also underway to begin research on the Angel type collections. Finally, Pope launched a project this fall to address the organizational structure of the GBL archaeological collections. One outcome of the collections structure project will be a collections-based publication, Indiana Archaeology through the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology Collections, which will aid future research and research-based exhibits that will enhance and support the newly envisioned IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Melody Pope's signature

Melody Pope, Curator of Collections

Mapping the Past at Angel Mounds with Geographic Information Systems

By David Massey

Image of a man standing in front of artifact boxes, smiling at camera
Image of David Massey (August 2019)

Hello! I’m David Massey, and I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at Indiana University. This summer I was working in the Glenn Black Lab rehousing faunal materials from Angel Mounds as part of the “Saving America’s Treasures” (SAT) project. It was fascinating to see the range of faunal material coming from the site, from the tiniest rodent teeth to drumfish jaws and deer antlers.

My research focus is on the use of remote sensing technologies to investigate archaeological sites. Remote sensing is a broad term that refers to the non-invasive acquisition of information about a physical landscape. While most remotely sensed data comes from satellites or aircrafts, drones fly much closer to the Earth’s surface and are able to collect finer resolution data. Archaeologists are increasingly using drones to survey landscapes for this reason. I’m currently working on a project at Angel Mounds using Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) topographic models derived from an aircraft and a drone. This will help us understand the labor involved in constructing the mounds and what this tells us about the degree of social complexity among the inhabitants.

We’re very fortunate that Glenn Black had the foresight to systematically excavate Angel Mounds. After excavating at Nowlin Mound in 1934-1935, Black (1936) wrote that “if the results of any excavation are to provide an unimpeachable historical record of a prehistoric work, too much stress cannot be placed upon methodical technique and exactness of detail, no matter how trivial the feature may be.” This attention to what some at the time deemed trivial details enables archaeologists to discover and examine spatial patterns in the archaeological record through a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database today. GIS is an essential tool for archaeologists because it allows for the analysis and visualization of large amounts of spatial data.

10 by 10 grid with numbers along each side, represents subdivison X11C
Example diagram of Angel Mounds subdivision X11C (Massey 2019)

Glenn Black divided the entire site into Subdivisions, Blocks, and Depths. Each Subdivision is a 100 x 100-foot square.  Within each Subdivision is one hundred 10 x 10-foot Blocks. Each Block is labeled from 0 – 9 along the y-axis and into Left and Right from 1 – 5 on the x-axis. Each Block is additionally separated into 6 categories of depth in feet: 0.0 – 0.4, 0.4 – 0.8, 0.8 – 1.2, 1.2 – 1.6, 1.6 – 2.0, and 2.0 – 2.4.  All this information can be displayed in GIS as a shapefile. A shapefile stores information about specific geographic features such as their location, shape, and attributes.

Satellite image of Angel Mounds with red boxes drawn over the top, locating relevant subdivisions for rehousing in 2019.
Locations of subdivisions on satellite image of Angel Mounds (Massey 2019)

This past summer we rehoused faunal material from 17 different Subdivisions. These records get updated in a Filemaker database and form the basis for the GIS database. The naming conventions of fields within the GIS and Filemaker database become very important at this point, because at least one must match for the data to be imported and joined correctly.

Below is an example of one Subdivision our team worked on this summer.

Aerial image of Angel Mounds subdivision X11C, with blocks of varying levels of black to represent concentrations of faunal materials rehoused in 2019.
Visual representation of faunal items rehoused from X11C (Massey 2019)

Subdivision X-11-C contains 1,936 faunal records and 88 of 100 Blocks currently have data associated with them. The total weight of all bone within X-11-C is 573.6178 kilograms, while the average weight of bone across all X-11-C Blocks is 5.86082 kg. It’s possible to see concentrations of bone across this Subdivision. In Figure 6, darker shading indicates a higher standard deviation across this Block compared to the mean (5.86082 kg), while lighter squares indicate lower standards of deviation. Depth information, which has not been added yet, would provide more chronological insight.  Moving forward, we hope to have all excavation data in a GIS database to conduct more sophisticated spatial analyses of faunal, lithic, and ceramic material to help us better understand the landscape around Angel Mounds. 


References:

Black, Glenn A. (1936). Excavation of the Nowlin Mound: Dearborn County Site 7, 1934–1935. Indiana History Bulletin, 13(7), 197 – 342.


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.)

Integrating the Mixed Materials of the Angel Mounds Collection

by Ryan Edward Peterson

Ryan with some of the rehoused Angel collection

Hello everyone! My name is Ryan Peterson. I am a member of the crew that has been working hard all summer on the Angel Mounds rehousing project here at the Glenn Black Lab. As a member of the “Saving America’s Treasures” (SAT) team I have spent my summer decked out in gloves and a mask rehousing, conserving, and reintegrating the Angel Mounds collection.

I am a second year PhD student at Indiana University. My focus is on Great Lakes archaeology, specializing in the production, procurement, and exchange of native copper on islands and coastlines in the Upper Great Lakes. The isolation of these raw resources spurs me to study the question of how copper from the Upper Great Lakes has been found dispersed in a variety of places, including Angel Mounds. As a Great Lakes archaeologist, the movement of people, especially over large bodies of water, is another important facet of this area of study. This movement links directly with the use and exchange of Native copper throughout the region.

Currently, the rehousing team is working our way through the faunal bones from Angel Mounds. These materials are purposefully being rehoused first, due to the degree of mold that has grown on the materials (in comparison to the rest of the collection). We have a saying at the GBL, “the worst goes first!” We prioritize our rehousing and conservation based on the artifacts that have the greatest need.

As the team goes through bag after bag, and box after box of bone, we continuously find more than just bone in these bags. In these bags, along with the bone, we find a mix of many other materials, such as pottery, lithics (stone), wood, and other materials that were mistaken for bone when the original WPA workers roughly sorted the artifacts. As the original WPA workers learned how to identify one artifact from another, they slowly became more efficient at distinguishing artifacts. This was a trend noticed as the rehousing team at first found a large amount of mixed materials in the early boxes of bone, but the amount of mixed materials slowly tapered down as the experience of the WPA workers went up.

Identifying these mixed materials can be quite a challenge to the untrained observer. When attempting to distinguish these materials from one another, two of the biggest clues are the texture and weight of the artifacts. Wooden artifacts are light in weight and contain a grain-like structure. Lithics, in contrast, are heavier than the average bone, but their smooth surface can be deceiving when compared to long bone fragments. Ceramics at Angel Mounds are tempered with shell (temper is added into the clay and helps strengthen the pottery during firing). This shell tempering is very distinctive and can help identify an artifact as ceramic even if its shape is deceiving. It is common to find ceramics formed into not only vessels, but also effigy figures. Many of these figures, especially when broken, can bear a shocking resemblance in shape to bone.

After these artifacts are pulled from their incorrect bags, the mixed materials are removed, labeled, and placed aside. The rehousing team then goes through the Angel Mounds catalog system to determine where other materials from the section that the original bone was in are located in the Angel Collection. These artifacts are then organized by their new location and placed in what should have been their correct location. As these artifacts are placed into their temporary new location, we often rediscover new things in the multitude of boxes that are being opened. This process is referred to as reintegration. The reintegration of these materials into the larger Angel Collection as a whole allows for a more accurate curation and management of materials, along with creating the potential for more accurate collections-based research.

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 5

Part 5 of Amanda’s Angel Rehousing Project blog series

by Amanda Pavot

I have returned with news!

First, this is going to be my last blog post of the semester. However(!), the current plan is to continue to make blog posts about the project as it goes on. It’s just going to be different people writing. Maybe we’ll get more perspectives other than mine! Keep checking the blog for more updates!

More importantly, the Rehousing has started! It’s being divided into a couple of phases, those phases being “sort out the moldy bone boxes” and then “do everything else.”

~Issues in Curation~

Remember last post when I said that our NAGPRA team was pulling out AFOs and going through faunal remains to ensure that all sacred items and human remains are accounted for? Also, remember waaay back when I said that some of the boxes of artifacts have mold in them?

After opening boxes that had faunal remains in order to go through them, many of those boxes were found to have mold in them. Before our NAGPRA team can sort through those bones, they need to be cleaned up and rehoused into temporary bags and boxes. Only then can they be sorted through. Because it’s Very Important to get this done, cleaning up the moldy bone boxes is the priority right now. So here’s how it works:

First, we put on our respirators and nitrile gloves. That’s very important. Then we pull one of the moldy boxes. We take out one of the bags and look up the information written on the bag to find it in our digital database. Then we take the bones out of the bag, count them, vacuum off any mold (using a special attachment on the vacuum with the HEPA filter, which I think is cooler than it probably really is. The mold just comes right off, though!), and then weigh them. We get a new, archival-quality bag, write the information from the old bag onto the new one along with quantity and weight, and put the bones into the new bag. We also update the information in the database –for example, sometimes the number of artifacts in the bags and the number the database says we should have in those bags are different. Put the bag into a new box, move on to the next bag!

I left out a lot of the nitty-gritty details, but that’s basically how it works. We’re working in teams of two, one on a laptop with the database and one on the vacuum. When we finally finish all of the moldy bones, we’ll move on to the rest of the bulk collection. We’ll be training more people soon, and with more people we’ll be able to plow right through these boxes this summer!

I want to thank everyone who’s read these posts and has followed along so far. So: thank you! I’m looking forward to where this project is headed, and I hope you all are interested in it, too. I may be making some posts in the future, but, until then, have a great summer!


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.)

Angel Rehousing Project, Part 4

Amanda’s 4th blog about the ongoing Angel Rehousing project

by Amanda Pavot

Time for another Angel Update!

I’m still working on inventorying the boxes of the Type Collection. At first, I worked on a box of mostly projectile points, especially small triangular points. Then I worked on an especially heavy box of groundstone, which includes items like stones they used as hammers and celts (stone axes). Now I’m working on a box of worked bone, which includes bone tools and pins. One neat thing about working in a museum like this is the variety of interesting artifacts you get to see! Holding an object that was carved into by a person hundreds of years ago can really make you feel things.

There are a lot of other projects connected to this Angel Rehousing project. One of these is the very important job of repatriating artifacts and human remains. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a law that, among other things, sets the procedure of returning certain Native American artifacts to their related communities. It also reflects changes in thought, specifically how archaeologists in the early 20th century think in terms of family connections to communities of Native Americans. Excavations at Angel Mounds began in the early-to-mid 20th Century, so human remains and objects associated with burials ended up in the Glenn Black’s collection.

What we call the “NAGPRA Team” has already been working on sorting out the human remains and AFOs (Associated Funerary Objects, or objects buried with the deceased) to be repatriated. There is an original list of AFOs that is used to find the artifacts in the collection that were associated with burials. Each object is pulled from the bulk collection and carefully documented; they are measured, weighed, and identified and described in more detail than what was done previously. An object noted in the original logs as simply “animal bone” will now have more pertinent information listed in the database. The Angel Rehousing project will end up playing an important role in this as well.

While AFOs have already been pulled from the bulk collection, sometimes, despite our best efforts, objects can be missed. As we sort through each individual artifact to be rehoused, we can look them up in the database where it will say if it is an AFO or not. Any found AFOs can then be separated out to be repatriated. In other words, the rehousing gives us the chance to go through every artifact to ensure no AFOs are missed.

There’s also the rehousing of the faunal artifacts, aka all the animal bones. A lot of times animal remains were buried with humans, or animal carcasses were discarded near burials. While most of the human remains have already been separated from the rest of the artifacts, it can be very difficult to identify small bone fragments, and some human remains have been found mixed up with animal remains. As we rehouse faunal artifacts, we will be going through the bones to double-check that no human remains are left behind, ensuring that, if any are found, they can be treated with the respect they deserve and be repatriated.

I’ll end this post with exciting news; rehousing starts this week! Next time, I’ll be back with more specifics about that!


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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)