Artifact Spotlight: The Negative

Short description of negative-painted pottery sherd from Angel Mounds.

by April Sievert, Director

I spotted this pot-sherd as our curation assistant, Hannah Ballard (IU’18), was inventorying our ‘type’ collection of ceramics from Angel Mounds, the 13th century town on the Ohio River near Evansville. The piece, from the broad rim of a large plate, boasts a signature decorating technique—negative painting. Potters at Angel Mounds made plates of clay tempered with fine pieces of shell, and applied multiple layers of slip or pigment to create designs around the rim in black, red and buff-clay colors.  While I’m used to seeing painted sherds with crossed-circle and geometric designs, this was the first time I’d actually seen one of the two sherds from Angel that sport a bi-lobed arrow/bowstring motif. The red arrow shows through a layer of black. The motif is a very special one for Mississippian people, seen far and wide across the Mississippi Valley and Southeast. Finding the design at Angel Mounds underscores how far afield people of Angel communicated.

Seeing this design reminded me of another Mississippian collection that I documented for the Smithsonian Institution’s Repatriation Office nearly 30 years ago. That site is Spiro, located along the Arkansas River in far eastern Oklahoma. Spiro was infamously looted in the 1930s, and later excavated as part of the Works Projects Administration, just like Angel. At Spiro, the motif had been carved into the outsides of whelk shells that hail from the Gulf of Mexico. Bi-lobed designs also show up also on hair ornaments, rock art, and rendered in native copper spread far across the Southeast.  

But what does the motif mean? Association with the bow and arrow seems pretty clear, with a possibility that the lobes reflect back to the atlatl, or spear thrower. It could also be indirectly reflective of a traditional Siouan culture hero known as Redhorn, or ‘he who gets hit with deer lungs’. Professor Robert Hall was an Indigenous symbolic archaeologist from Wisconsin, and one of my graduate mentors, who had made this connection. Could the two lobes in the design harken back to an image of deer lungs attached to a trachea? We can’t really know for sure, but it is clear is that ancient Indigenous people along the Ohio engaged in a system of ceremony, communication, and artistry that far exceeds the confines of an agricultural site in the central Ohio Valley.

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.)

Spring 2019 Newsletter

From the desk of the Director

Click here to read a message from Director April Sievert.

From the desk of the curator

Click here to read a message from Curator Melody Pope.


conferences

Anne Lacey, Kelsey Grimm, and Bob Wicks at MAC

Kelsey Grimm, librarian for the GBL, hosted a session in April at the 2019 Midwest Archivist Conference in Detroit, Michigan. She, Bob Wicks of Miami University, and Anne Lacey of Kansas City, Kansas Public Library, presented “Collaborate and Listen,” in which they described the Wyandotte Heritage Digital Archive. This project, organized by Bob Wicks and hosted by the Wyandotte Nation, will bring together digitized primary source documents from repositories across the continent.

Ph.D. student Molly Mesner presented at the Midwest Archivist Conference, alongside Wylie House Museum Director Carey Beam, concerning last summer’s campus archaeology project.

Curator Melody Pope presented research at this year’s Society for American Archaeology conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Head over to her ‘From the Desk of the Curator’ to read more.


Collections news

Cataloging Collections

Malachai Darling has been continuing the book cataloging and completed the Jonathan Reyman collection, a set of books donated by the former curator of anthropology at the Illinois State Museum. Those can be found on our LibraryThing catalog.

Cleaning the Lilly Map

The Lilly Map

Sheree Sievert, a volunteer, has been cleaning the Eli Lilly map. It should be completed very soon, and will be on display in the Mather’s Museums’s fall exhibit, “800 Seasons.”

Wylie House Excavation

Follow our work at the Wylie House on our blog!

Save America’s Treasures Grant

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. The “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.

Amanda Pavot in the Angel Room

As the project gets underway, collections assistant Amanda Pavot is posting weekly updates on our blog. Click here to follow along!

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. Follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter!


Outreach news

Stephanie Holman, children’s librarian at the Monroe County Public Library, wrote and performed a story of Angel Mounds with support from the Indiana Historical Society and Storytelling Arts of Indiana. She debuted “Baskets of Dirt: the building, excavation, and interpretation of Angel Mounds” in early March at the History Center in Indianapolis. Look for more performances around the state in the coming year!

Part of the GBL’s “Postcards from the Past” activity

Lotus Blossoms was another absolutely treat this year! The GBL hosted a table with the activity “Postcards from the Past,” where students could identify artifacts found in the state of Indiana and try writing a postcard on the back. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us at Fairfield Elementary!

Hannah Ballard and Amanda Pavot at the Powwow

The GBL had a table at Indiana University’s 8th Annual Traditional Powwow on April 6th.


Exhibit News

Out With the Old: Hats of 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. 

The exhibit closed in Spring 2019.

IHS Partnership: You Are There 1939

Throughout the past spring and fall, researchers from the Indiana Historical Society have been extensively using the archives for their exhibit You Are There 1939: Exploring Angel Mounds. Danny Gonzales and Dan Shockley visited the facility and were in constant communication with the GBL staff while preparing the exhibit. Uniquely, the “You Are There…” exhibits contain a section allowing visitors to simulate stepping back into the past by talking and interacting with actors; in this case you can talk to Glenn and Ida Black, William Rude, and other WPA workers at Angel Mounds. GBL staff members April Sievert, Melody Pope, and Kelsey Grimm spent a day teaching the “YAT” actors about Angel Mounds and the people of the WPA project. “You Are There 1939” discusses the history of the Angel Mounds Site from Mississippian occupation to today. The exhibit will be on display until August 2020 in Indianapolis at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

The new “Images from the WPA-era: Angel Mounds in 1939” exhibit in the GBL lobby

In With the New: “Images from the WPA-era: Angel Mounds in 1939”

In partnership with the Indiana Historical Society, the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology provided images, artifacts, and other primary sources to the development of the IHS exhibit You Are There 1939. An image exhibit was developed in the lobby of the GBL to showcase more of the historic images from 1939 Angel Mounds. The photos highlight some of the earliest, formalized archaeology conducted in the state of Indiana.

The exhibit opened in March 2019.


volunteer and student appreciation

           Collections: Hannah Ballard, Preet Gill, and Amanda Pavot

           Library: Malachai Darling, Sheree Sievert, and Ethan Shepherd

           Programming: Hannah Rea

Thank you to all who gave their time this semester!


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From the Desk of the Curator

From the desk of the curator

April 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Melody Pope, Curator


The Angel Rehousing project is made possible in part by the support of
the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In September 2018, the GBL received a Save America’s Treasures grant to rehabilitate and rehouse about 2.8 million artifacts from Angel Mounds over the next 3 years. These grants are administered by the National Park Service in partnership with IMLS.

MORE ABOUT IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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.)

Newspaper Coverage of the Angel Mounds Purchase, 1938-39

by Hannah Rea

In addition to working with social media this semester, I’ve undertaken a project using archival resources here at the Lab. I’m working with newspaper articles from the 1938-39 purchase of the Angel Mounds site near Evansville, which I think is a good intersection of my two areas of study—journalism and history. Being as I am a newspaper nerd, it’s also just a lot of fun.

We don’t know much about the collection of articles I’m using, other than they are part of the Glenn Black papers. That being said, we can’t be entirely sure it was Glenn himself who collected them. But I do thing these articles were collected to serve a purpose, while other articles were excluded.

So far I’ve found some interesting things, including examples of how journalism has evolved in the past 80 years and the editorial nature of many of the articles. There are a lot of what I would call ‘Call to Action’ phrases which indicate the author of the article was more than just informing on a situation, but pushing for action to be taken. This would fall under what some call ‘activist journalism’ today, but the lines between editorial (that is, more opinion-driven) content and not was much more blurred. Now, as a general rule, Opinion columns are labeled as such.

One feature of newspaper coverage at this time in Evansville was the work of Karl Kae Knecht, affectionately referred to by readers as ‘K.K.K.’ He produced editorial cartoons for the Evansville Courier from 1906 to 1960, and was an almost-constant presence in Evansville homes. Knecht often took on activist themes in his work, at times calling for change on a local, national, and global level. His interests ranged from maritime safety after the 1912 Titanic disaster, to keeping morale up during the Second World War, to —for the purposes of my research— the purchase of Angel Mounds.

One of the most distinctive features of a K.K.K. cartoon is Kay the elephant, who shows up in nearly every one of his pieces and quickly became a recognizable signature. She’s at the bottom left of this cartoon —with her feathered headdress, she’s clearly meant as a caricature of a former Native resident of the Mounds site.

This brings up another feature of K.K.K.’s cartoons and of the coverage of the time: It’s just a few years after Howard Carter’s widely-publicized and global-attention-grabbing excavation of King Tut’s tomb, and archaeology in the 1930s is framed as ‘exotic’ and exciting. The focus of the public was on the artifacts and their potential value (usually monetary), not necessarily on the people to whom they belonged. The articles and this cartoon especially panders to that romanticized view of the study of the past.

When working with newspaper articles, you have to put them in the context in which they were written. They were produced for public consumption, to a public with little or no regard for the memory of the people who once lived and walked where they now stand. There was even less of an understanding that descendant groups were not only present around the United States, but actively being harmed by this method of undermining their existence and the memory of their ancestors.

This is not to say the coverage reflects the views of contemporary archaeologists and historians themselves; that’s a different research project. My focus is on that information meant for public consumption. Arguments can and have been made that the work of writers and artists like K.K.K. is a product of its time, a reflection of norms in how a group of people may be portrayed while at the same time their individual voices were stifled or ignored.

Everything from word choice to the amount of space dedicated to a column can tell us about the perceived importance of a topic. Reading these articles give a glimpse into the information being shared. While it can at times be offensive and shocking to our modern eyes, it shines a light on an important truth in our collective past.

For further information on Karl Kae Knecht, see:

MacLeod, James Lachlan. The Cartoons of Evansville’s Karl Kae Knecht: Half a Century of Artistic Activism (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2017).