Archaeological Lab.

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.