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!

From the Desk of the IUMAA Director – Spring 2020

Collage of Mathers Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology signs
Collage of Mathers Museum and Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology signs.

With the Spring 2020 semester now officially closed, I wanted to update you on our efforts on a number of fronts. But first, I would like to wish all of our student volunteers and employees a healthy summer, and I want to say thank you to our graduating students many of whom have been an important part of our family for years. Last fall we began work on the monumental task of bringing together the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures into one new institution, the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (IUMAA), and redesigning our building, exhibits, and the way we work. In many ways, the process has been like combining two families to create something bigger, stronger, and more diverse. We now face many of the tasks that go along with combining households: we are building a new home, and moving out of familiar spaces, all of this while working in a global pandemic!

Our building renovation is addressing outdated and inefficient HVAC and other infrastructure, and because these issues have far-reaching implications for the safety of our collections and the people who care for it, our renovation is still on track in spite of COVID-19. The pandemic situation has meant that we’ve been conducting our planning meetings and collections work online via Zoom. Not being together has been difficult, but we are committed to doing whatever we can to slow the spread of this disease. Soon enough we’ll all be back in the building working hard to continue preparing for the move and renovation.

We’re excited about the plans for the building and will share those broadly once they are finalized—for now we can say that you’ll notice improvements to our entrances and programs spaces. Major changes will encourage visitors to explore the behind the scenes work of the museum more easily. People will be able to see what kinds of work takes place in our laboratories, storage, and analytical spaces, while improvements to collections accessibility will facilitate student, collaborator, and faculty research. New technologies and techniques are also planned for exhibit halls that will create even more meaningful learning experiences.

As you might imagine, the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered our timeline is somewhat uncertain and a little fuzzy, but we are still hopeful that in early 2022, we’ll be able to welcome you into our new museum and laboratory. Until then, we hope we’ll see you around campus and online. During the time we are under renovation we’ll still be conducting programs, hosting research, and participating in the life of the campus. I hope you’ll follow along with all or our efforts and activities via social media and the IUMAA website. Please stay safe and healthy.

Warm regards,
Ed Herrmann, IUMAA Director

From the Desk of the GBL Director – Spring 2020

You can take the archaeologist out of the archaeology laboratory, but I don’t think you can take the laboratory out of the archaeologist. In being separated from the physical lab space for both work and teaching, I’ve been thinking more about how the world outside of a physical building, holds the collections, assemblages, sites, and material culture that archaeologists and museum folk value and interpret. I made a foray into the woods that surrounds my house in Unionville to get a break from Zoom and visited an old midden, a dump of materials discarded from the early to mid 20th century. It was a common practice to dispose of unwanted and broken things into pits or drainages, especially before landfills and trash pickup became common.

Tossed into a natural drainage off the top of one of the many ridges in northwest Monroe county, the materials in the midden include metal, glass bottles, ceramics, all testifying to the people who once lived on the land. I know that previous residents include a family that has inhabited the ridge continuously since the 1840s, and descendants still live right next door. I came upon an empty bottle of Esquire Scuff-kote shoe polish, broken dishes, a glass electrical insulator, a tiny medicine bottle, and a very swell vacuum tube, among shards of window glass, rusty metal sheeting and many broken canning jars in shining clear and turquoise in the sunlight. This is a small archaeological site, associated with specific people. The site is too recent to be classified as a Historic Period archaeological site by the state of Indiana. However, it is a site nonetheless. I looked at and noted many pieces, but left them in place or in situ, as archaeologists would say. Field recording of artifacts gets you information without disturbing or having to curate the materials. Someday I will come back and make a map of the site.

Collage of three images taken in the forest of discarded materials.
Left: insulator; middle: household midden; right: vacuum tube
Images courtesy April Sievert.

When we get back into the Glenn Black Laboratory, it will be to pack up and move the collections. Then we will pack up and move our office to a temporary location. Soon after the demolition and construction crews will enter to create a redesigned space, one with enhanced visibility and accessibility, flexible learning spaces, and better collections care. It will be a bit sad to see furniture and fixtures that have been there since the GBL opened in 1971 (pretty shabby now), moved out, but the prospects for getting better materials and ergonomic design is so welcome. Not everyone shares my fondness for the mid-century modern look of the GBL, but elements of that design are classic. And it’s ironic that in 2021 the building would become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, by virtue of turning 50 years old.

Although it will be hard to say goodbye to the old Glenn Black Lab, come back and see us in 2022 when the complex will reopen as the Indiana Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, with the Glenn Black Laboratory under that umbrella, carrying on the archaeological research and teaching activities that it always has.

April Sievert, GBL Director

From the Desk of the GBL Curator – Spring 2020

Collage of three images: on left is curator at desk, middle is a group of people working in type collection room, right is artifacts in numbered bags.

This is the last newsletter before we officially merge with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to become the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (IUMAA). While the GBL will retain its identity and spirit as part of the IUMAA, this seems somehow like a moment to pause, if only for a second. We really have not had much time to reflect on all the changes that are rapidly taking place with the flurry of packing, tracking, moving, lifting, bar coding, and ordering supplies (more carts please!). A pandemic was certainly not part of the plan. But here we are. I was a student at IU in the 1970s and had the good fortune to work on projects and collections at the GBL. One of the best parts of my job now as Curator is working with students who are just starting their careers. The few times I have been in the building since closing reminds me of just how important all of our graduates, students and volunteers are to the work we do. They truly are the backbone of the place, and for me the inspiration to get through all of the packing, moving, rebuilding, restructuring, and merging. When we reopen, the GBL will be an improved laboratory for learning, exploring and research. Despite the flurry of the BIG MOVE OUT, we also managed to conduct some business as usual:

  • We began the second year of the three-year IMLS/SAT Grant – Curating Angel Mounds Legacy Collections. The faunal collection rehousing was completed and by March 12 we had rehoused 12% of the ceramic collection boxes. By March 12, 359 rehoused Angel boxes were deposited at the new IU repository, ALF3.
  • We continued to provide curation services for collections under a cost share agreement between USDA Forest Service, Hoosier National Forest and IU/GBL.
  • We facilitated transfers and documentation work for IU NAGPRA and Hoosier National Forest.
  • The registrar team continued work on accession files.
  • We accepted two donations. From the Arkansas Archaeology Survey, Parkin Archaeological State Park, on behalf of Robin Gay Walker of Wilsonville, Oregon, we received a stone pipe from the Bone Bank site. From IU alum, Kenneth Tankersley, University of Cincinnati, Department of Anthropology and Geology we accepted items from his research at the GBL, including color slides from 1984 excavations at the Arrowhead Arch site and speleothem petrographic thin sections from Wyandotte Cave.
  • We facilitated access to the collections for three visiting researchers. Cheryl Munson, Indiana University, Department of Anthropology selected carbonized botanical samples from Wyandotte Cave for identification and carbon dating. Munson also conducted research on aragonite pipe fragments from the Mann site and Arrowhead Arch. Pat Trader, Gray and Pape, Inc. conducted comparative research on partially reconstructed ceramic vessels and sherds from the Martinsville Plaza site (12Mg52) comparing them to ceramics from other recently excavated Oliver Phase sites in the White River valley. PhD student and GBL Assistant Curator, Amanda Burtt, initiated exploratory research to study the diets and health of dogs from Angel Mounds. Melody Pope provided exploratory work and training in the Materials Science lab for IU graduate student Ryan Peterson who is researching ancient copper technologies (Figure 1). These varied research efforts are exciting and demonstrate the breadth of the GBL collections and the kinds of research they support.
  • As for the Big Move Out, 3,757 boxes have been deposited at ALF3, and one quarter of the type collection has been packed. This was a huge effort and accomplishment on the part of the GBL collections team (Figures 2, 3, and 4).

A BIG THANK YOU to the entire GBL collections and registration team!!

Melody Pope, Curator of Collections