West Virginia

Managing the Past as a Site Manager in West Virginia

I’m David Rotenizer, site manager for the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (GCMAC) in Moundsville, West Virginia.  This facility is situated in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, half way between Pittsburgh, PA and Columbus, OH.  I have held the position just shy of four years.  Archaeology has been important to me for most of my life since as least middle school, so we are looking at nearly four decades.  I am passionate about archaeology and its contributions and value to society.

GCMAC is a seven acre archaeological park featuring the Grave Creek Mound.  We are a historic site operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.  It is called a complex because we consist of three separate, but related components:  mound, museum, and research facility.  The Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest known conical earthen burial mounds associated with the Adena culture and has been dated to around 250 – 150 BCE.  The mound was saved from destruction by concerned citizens and elected officials when it became a state property in 1909.

Aside from the large earthen mound, a focal point here is the Delf Norona Museum.  This Brutalist architecture styled facility opened in 1978 and consists of 25,646 square feet.  It features various exhibit galleries, an auditorium (currently being renovated), an activity room for educational programs, and a gift shop.  Outside on the grounds is one of our newest “exhibits” – an interpretive garden.

Adjoining the museum is a 9,600 square foot addition completed in 2008 that houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.  This state-of-the-art wing serves as West Virginia’s first official repository for archaeological collections.

We are open five days a week (Tue – Sat) and currently have a staff of five full time employees and are blessed with regular and occasional volunteers.  Some of our volunteers come to us through RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program).  We also work with volunteer student interns.  The past two years, we have been the host site for community service learning volunteers from the Native American Studies Program at West Virginia University, which was supported by a West Virginia Humanities Council grant last month.

From a day-in-the-life perspective, I can truly state that no two days are the same!  Rather than write out what happened during the Day of Archaeology 2013, I thought I might take a different approach.   For the past two days, I walked around the complex with my camera to document a Day of Archaeology at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex.

Grave Creek Mound as viewed from the roof of the Delf Norona Museum.

Grave Creek Mound as viewed from the roof of the Delf Norona Museum.

 

View of Grave Creek Mound from within the Delf Norona Museum.

View of Grave Creek Mound from within the Delf Norona Museum.

 

View within gallery of the Delf Norona Museum.

View within gallery of the Delf Norona Museum.

 

Accountant /Gift Shop Manager holding replica Adena pipe that is available for sale in gift shop.

Accountant /Gift Shop Manager holding replica Adena pipe that is available for sale in gift shop.

Maintenance Supervisor must constantly observe climate controls for museum and research center to maintain acceptable temperature and humidity levels.  Collections management program follows 36 CFR Part 79 - the federal curation guidelines.

Maintenance Supervisor must constantly observe climate controls for museum and research center to maintain acceptable temperature and humidity levels. Collections management program follows 36 CFR Part 79 – the federal curation guidelines.

 

View toward Interpretive Garden with museum in background to right.

View toward Interpretive Garden with museum in background to right.

 

Curators moving boxes from old collections.  Eventulay these will be rehoused into archival standard containers.

Curators moving boxes from old collections. Eventually these will be rehoused into archival standard containers

 

Ohio University - Eastern Campus Intern vewing microfilm for early historic references to the Grave Creek Mound.  Volunteers and interns are provided with a variety of learning opportunities.

Ohio University – Eastern Campus Intern viewing microfilm for early historic references to the Grave Creek Mound. Volunteers and interns are provided with a variety of learning opportunities.

During the evening before Day of Archaeology, we hosted an installment of the 2013 Lecture & Film Series.  This month we had 28 in attendance.  The series is into its fourth year.

During the evening before Day of Archaeology, we hosted an installment of the 2013 Lecture & Film Series. This month we had 28 in attendance. The series is into its fourth year.

 

View of archaeological lab from the public oberservation room.  Image taken one month prior.

View of archaeological lab from the public observation room. Image taken one month prior.

Recently labeled and processed Native American ceramic sherds.  The facility has large backlog of old collections requiring rehousing that will processing.

Recently labeled and processed Native American ceramic sherds. The facility has large backlog of old collections with materials requiring various levels of processing such as labeling and rehousing to archival standards.

 

During the day, our intern from Ohio University - Eastern Campus was viewing microfilm at the Moundsville Public Library for historic references to the mound.  I stopped by to check on intern.  I could not help but take note of the front door to library....upper right is a flyer for upcoming presentation to summer reading program by our facility educator.  At bottom of door is large poster for current national summer reading program "I Dig Reading."  This all helped give special meaning to the day.

During the day, our intern from Ohio University – Eastern Campus was viewing microfilm at the Moundsville Public Library for historic references to the mound. When I stopped by to check on him, I could not help but observe the front door to library – at upper right was a flyer for upcoming presentation to summer reading program by our facility’s educator. At bottom of door was large poster for the national summer reading program “Dig into Reading.” This all helped give special meaning to the day.

Program Educator standing next to the Interpretive Garden.  This is the fourth year she has maintained the "living exhibit."

Program Educator standing next to the Interpretive Garden. This is the fourth year she has maintained the “living exhibit.”

 

On Day of Archaeology, contractors completed installation of new pipeline in auditorium that is undergoing renovation.  The excavated trench had to be refilled with cement.

On Day of Archaeology, contractors completed installation of new pipeline in auditorium that is undergoing renovation. The excavated trench had to be refilled with cement.

 

Example of items for sale in the gift shop.

Example of items for sale in the gift shop.

For a very brief period, visitors to the complex were witness to an emergency scene.  Someone walking down the street had experienced a seizure.  They were later ok.  Never a dull moment.

For a very brief period, visitors to the complex were witness to an emergency scene. Someone walking down the street had experienced a seizure, but they were later determined to be ok. Never a dull moment!

 

At the end of the day on the Day of Archaeology, the bottom line for most of us is simply making our finds and discoveries available for future generations.  Shown here are boxes of artifacts in the collections storage area – Grave Creek has 51 shelving units (each about 8m/26 ft long).

At the end of the day on the Day of Archaeology, the bottom line for most of us is simply making our finds and discoveries available for future generations. Shown here are boxes of artifacts in the collections storage area – Grave Creek has 51 shelving units (each about 8m/26 ft long).

 

A Day in the Life of an Archaeological Curator

Happy DoA 2013, everyone (and thank goodness it’s Friday)!  🙂

A day in the life of an archaeological curator at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (GCMAC) in Moundsville, WV is certainly never boring.  This is largely because the job isn’t simply being an Archaeological Curator…I also serve as our research library indexer, cleaning staff, and occasional gift shop manager!   Working at a multi-component facility consisting of an Adena burial mound, interpretive museum, and the WV state collection facility requires you to wear a lot of different hats in order for the public to experience an engaging and educational visit.  Every day is filled with new challenges and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Today is no exception.  This morning I am spending my time working in our research library.  The majority of our library consists of the donated personal collection of Dr. Don Dragoo, who was a prominent archaeologist with the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, and contains an extensive array of pivotal archaeological works, journals, and periodicals.  The library also contains numerous Cultural Resource Management reports, maps, and articles.  To date, a complete inventory of our holdings has not been completed; in order to remedy this, I have allotted my mornings to establishing a full inventory of our written collections.  It is my hope that one day this inventory will be made available online and the GCMAC Library will become a functioning non-lending research library.  This afternoon, I will return to my Archaeological Curator duties and will work to catalog and rehouse artifacts from our very own Grave Creek Mound site.  I hope today has served as a great example of the variety of tasks that fall under the purview of an Archaeological Curator….I wonder what new and exciting projects will be taking place at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex on Day of Archaeology 2014!

library

A glimpse into the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex Research Library.

GCMAC Lab 2

A visitor’s view into the GCMAC Archaeology Lab from the observation hall.

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Grave Creek Mound, a late Adena burial mound, on a beautiful day.


…And Just Where Did That Come From?

As a curator at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, West Virginia, I find myself asking this question often, “…and just where did that come from?”  This facility houses thousands of boxes of archaeological artifacts, many of which were excavated as far back as fifty to sixty years ago. Most of the boxes had been moved here and there throughout the state of West Virginia until our facility was built in 2008.  With all of that “moving,” it is no wonder that some of the artifacts’ “stories” have been lost to time.  On some days, I feel like I’m conducting archaeology on archaeology.

Just yesterday, I opened a box that had simply been labeled “Museum.”  It contained multiple artifacts including both prehistoric and historic material, some from identifiable sites and others with no provenience at all.  Many of the artifacts still had residue from where they had been mounted in an exhibit years ago.  Being a historical archaeologist in a state with such an overwhelming prehistoric archaeology presence can be tough sometimes, so you can imagine my utter joy when I retrieved a few late eighteenth/early nineteenth century artifacts from the box.  There were bone handled forks, tombac buttons, hand painted polychrome pearlware sherds, and musket flints…oh my!  Lucky for me, there was a tiny accession number written on a few of the flint pieces.  What a fortunate find indeed! With a little more digging, pardon the pun, I was able to find out that the artifacts had been excavated from a site in the summer of 1970 by Ms. Bettye Broyles (of St. Albans fame) and a team of students from a science camp being held in the Pocahontas County area.  The site was described as a farmstead that had been inhabited from the late eighteenth century to no later than 1810.  After even more investigating, I discovered that we have six more boxes of artifacts from the site, all patiently waiting to be rehoused into new boxes and bags!  What a discovery!

 

Bone handled forks, Copper Alloy buckle, and metal buttons from a site in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Bone handled forks, Copper Alloy buckle, and metal buttons from a site in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

"More Cow Bell" - Ferrous metal bell recovered from site in Pochantas County, West Virginia

I am looking forward to when I have some “free” time to continue my research into this surprising early historical archaeology site from the Mountain State.  Perhaps if you visit the museum in the next couple of months, there will even be a display of the ‘treasures’ that were excavated there some 43 years ago, and I will be able to tell you even more of the story behind these wonderful, early American artifacts.

My Day at Grave Creek Mound

A Day in Archaeology at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, for this volunteer, means doing whatever is necessary to help the staff of the complex.

This location consists of a mound built from 250 BC to 150 BC by Early Woodland Indians to honor three persons who held some position of regard in their culture, a museum which holds exhibits of the Adena culture of these Indians, and provides background of other West Virginia sites and Adena mounds.  Added to this is the history of efforts of modern man to preserve the Mound. A recent addition to the museum is the research complex which houses and archives artifacts found throughout the State of West Virginia and also archives reports and other written material relevant to prehistoric and historical archaeology for the State.

I began volunteering two years ago after having retired from a social service agency here in West Virginia.  I have been interested in archaeology since I was 13, but at that time I thought it was done only in Egypt, so I put my energies into other studies.  It was unfortunate for me that as a teenager I was not aware that two very important archaeological sites (Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania and Grave Creek Mound in West Virginia) were within a 30-mile radius of my home, and if I had been born 10 years later (and had good vocational guidance), I may have had the opportunity to work on one of the sites as part of an undergraduate or graduate program.

In my current volunteer experience I have done many things, the most important to me being work with the exhibits.  I have been doing data-entry of all the text in the core displays of the museum. The original intent of this effort was that by converting this information into digital form it would enable it to be accessible to those with vision impairment (as a social service worker, this was one population with which I became concerned).  To supplement the text, I would enter a description of the accompanying display.  I started this project nearly two years ago and I am still at it.

There are two major secondary benefits to this project.  This information documents the exhibits which will be helpful for future work with exhibits and public programs.  Also, my having to read (and re-read) every single word of each display has familiarized me with the exhibit to such an extent that I am comfortable in providing an introduction to the museum for the visitors.

Today three of us are working and it is a busy day in the summer. In my three hours here today, I am needed at the front desk, to greet visitors and help customers in the gift shop. I provide an orientation to the exhibits to 24 adults and 11 children, some coming individually and others in small groups. Some of these visitors came from Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina,  Arkansas and Louisiana. In addition, 25 people came as part of a cub scout troop for an educational program and activities conducted by Andrea, the educator on staff.  After Andrea took the cub scouts and their adult leaders outside to do a demonstration, and then to try their hand in atlatl-throwing, the museum became quiet. I would have liked to have gone out to watch them — 8-12 year old competitive boys, doing something outside their normal activities. I enjoy watching young people learn about the Indians and archaeology, but a large group is difficult to manage — thank goodness for Andrea.

I would advise anyone who has an interest in archaeology to volunteer at a place like this.  The staff is appreciative of the help and shows it by word and deed. They include me in many of their activities and conferences, so that I get hands-on experiences and hear presentations from experts in various fields of studies.   Having the opportunity to go through the exhibits on a weekly basis provides me with vastly more knowledge of the subject matter than anyone can hope to acquire in just occassional visits to the museum.

 

A Day in the Life of a Historic Site/Museum/Research Facility Manager in West Virginia

My name is David Rotenizer and I am the site manager of the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex (GCMAC) in Moundsville, West Virginia. I have held the position for one month shy of three years.  Archaeology has been an important part of my life since 1978, though mostly in the field.  My current position is particularly important to me because it helps with what I feel to be one of the field’s most important functions – to share the fruits of archaeology with the public.  Before proceeding with my day in the life perspective, I need to present a little background on where I work.

GCMAC is a seven acre archaeological park featuring the Grave Creek Mound.  We are a historic site operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.  It is called a complex because we consist of three separate, but related components:  mound, museum, and research facility.  The Grave Creek Mound is one of the largest known conical earthen burial mounds associated with the Adena culture and has been dated to around 250 – 150 BCE.

Interpretive Garden at Base of Grave Creek Mound

The Delf Norona Museum is a modern 25,646 square foot facility that opened in 1978.  It features various exhibit galleries, a 136-seat auditorium, an activity room for educational programs, and a gift shop.  Outside on the grounds is one of our newest “exhibits” – an interpretive garden.

A gallery area within museum.

 

Diaorama witin gallery depicting Grave Creek Mound.

 

 

Detail of Timeline within Gallery.

 

View of the Grave Creek Mound from Museum.

View toward portion of gift shop.

In 2008, a new state-of-the-art wing opened which houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.  The 9,600 square foot addition serves as West Virginia’s first official repository for the state’s archaeological collections.

Observation Window looking into Archaeological Lab.

Portion of one of 51 shelving units at facility – each about 8m (26 ft)long.

Portion of the Research Library and Archives.

We are open seven days a week, but to the public for six.  We currently have a staff of five full time employees and are blessed to be supported by a small group of dedicated regular volunteers.

My day actually began the evening before when we hosted our monthly lecture and film series program.  June always features a presentation and tour of the interpretive garden.  A typical day usually starts out with ensuring the facility is ready to be visited by the public starting at 9 a.m.  You want to make sure the lights are on, doors unlocked, restrooms are acceptable, trash emptied and if need be the glass doors and display cases cleaned and to check floors that may need to be swept or vacuumed.  The cash register in the gift shop is made ready and items stocked if needed.  Due to our limited staff everyone must wear different hats to keep the facility operational. We all help each other.

Throughout the day, I spend a lot of time on the computer checking and responding to e-mails, and on phone calls.  During the day I also check with the different staff members to keep abreast of what they are working on and to provide whatever support they might need.  Today I spent time working on submitted bids for annual maintenance of the mound and preparing supply orders, and reviewing gift shop inventory, to be ready when the new fiscal year starts on 1 July.  I was in communication with the Native American Studies Program at West Virginia University which will be bringing a class of volunteers to assist us in the lab in a few weeks – lots of last minute details to finalize.   A team from state technology services was here to help with the installation of a server to back up the records and files of the research facility.  I was in contact with the agency’s State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) education and planning coordinator to discuss ideas for West Virginia Archaeology Month held in October.  In August the street in front of the facility will be closed for several days due to a Veteran’s Wall project and I needed to respond to a request that had come in for use of our property to host a first-aid tent.

During the day I helped to greet visitors who arrive, and provide a brief orientation for them.  It is always interesting to meet folks and learn where they are from – amazingly from all over the U.S. and lately Canada and Germany.  It is equally interesting to listen to their questions and their experiences and perceptions of archaeology. Time was spent running the cash register in the gift shop.  Archaeological publications and gemstones/minerals are our best sellers. When I restocked the brochure rack I noticed we were almost out of our Cahokia Mounds brochure and called there to order more.  I had to make a daily run to the post office to deliver and pick up our mail as well as make trip to the bank to deposit funds from gift shop sales and fee-based educational programs. I walked the property to ensure everything was in good order.  The men’s public restroom had to be briefly closed while I gave it a special cleaning.  An artifact was brought to my attention for interpretation.

At the end of the day I close out the cash register and prepare a daily revenue report and then we go through the process of closing and securing the facility.  Like all of the positions here, no two days are the same.  It is always a matter of multi-tasking and dealing with the issues at hand.  All the same, we are part of the global archaeological community doing our part to interpret, preserve, and protect the past for present and future generations.

Archaeology Lab Rat in West Virginia: Day 455

Happy Day of Archaeology 2012 folks!

Presently, I am a curator for the research facility at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, West Virginia.  We are the first curation facility for archaeological artifacts built within the state (opened in 2008) and we house thousands of artifacts either excavated by state/federal organizations or personal collections donated by citizens.  The complex consists of not only the research/collections wing but is also home to the Delf Norona Museum.

My job varies on a daily basis but today I continued inventorying artifacts from a Fort Ancient Native American site formerly located in the southern part of the state.  Notice I use the word “formerly.”   Like so many archaeological sites worldwide, the site was destroyed after excavation and no longer exists.  It is now home to an industrial plant, one reason why our jobs as archaeologists are so valuable!  We are recording a past that may not be around for the future due to industrialization, roads, or any number of other destructive changes that can occur to the land.

Shell Tempered Cord Marked Sherds

Around 10:30 am, I looked up from analyzing a few prehistoric ceramic sherds and saw the observation window filled with a group of inquisitive, happy kids visiting the complex for a field trip.  I must admit, it has taken some time getting used to having people stare at you while you work throughout the day, but I now welcome it.  Who knows, maybe there is a future archaeologist in the crowd!

Possible future archaeologists!

This afternoon, we were fortunate to have Christina, one of our regular volunteers come in.  She is currently working on processing a large artifact collection that was donated to the facility many years ago.  She spent a few hours washing  lithic artifacts that will ultimately be labeled, sorted, and made available for researchers.  I don’t know what we would do without all of our reliable, hardworking volunteers!

For me, Day of Archaeology 2012 ended with inputting data into our always growing database (with some background 1980’s genre music playing from the internet radio to break the silence).  While it’s far from being glamorous, it’s priceless work.  At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do my part to preserve a little bit of West Virginia’s past for our future.

Inventorying prehistoric ceramic sherds

 

 

A Day in the Life of an Archaeological Curator in West Virginia

Day of Archaeology 2012 finds me completing my fourth month as an archaeological curator for the West Virginia state research and curation facility at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, WV.   The day started at 9:00 am like most others do, with a long list of emails to check and lots (and lots) of coffee.  After catching up on business, the day shifts into what I love about archaeology: processing artifacts and preserving collections.  Currently, I am in the process of analyzing and inventorying ceramics from a large multi-component site in West Virginia.  As a lab rat, the rest of my day will be spent looking at box after box of ceramics, rehousing artifacts, taking notes, drinking more coffee, researching, and entering data into an Access database.

Today, I am processing ceramics; tomorrow is always a surprise.  I am thrilled to be employed in a position that not only helps protect archaeological collections for future generations, but also provides me with the opportunity to research and learn more about my field every day.