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Timothy Baumann
Curator of Collections, Glenn Black Lab

Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wounded U.S. vets work with IU laboratory to learn new skills

April 28, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In a downtown St. Louis skyscraper a group of wounded U.S. veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam are cataloguing projectile points, pottery pieces and other prehistoric remnants from a southern Indiana archaeological dig. In the process, they are learning new and marketable new job skills.

Glenn Black Lab

U.S. veterans Lester "Trey" Stone III, Cody Gregory and Sean Box examine artifacts from the Glenn Black Lab at Indiana University.

The veterans are part of the Veterans Curation Project, started in 2009 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with $3.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The artifacts being processed in St. Louis are provided by the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University Bloomington. The materials are associated with both prehistoric Native Americans and the historic settlement of Indiana.

Curating archaeological materials may seem unusual on-the-job training, but Tim Baumann, curator of collections at the Glenn Black Lab at IU, says the vets are acquiring useful and widely applicable skills.

"They are learning how to inventory, how to write evaluation reports, how to use digital photography, and a lot about how to create and manipulate databases," he says. "These skills are transferable to archival work of any sort. The field of managing medical records, for example, is a big possibility."

The Glenn Black Lab's selection as a contributing partner in the project is a natural fit, Baumann explains. The U.S. Corps of Engineers carries out large-scale water projects such as creating Lake Monroe, which was built about 10 miles southeast of Bloomington in the 1960s. Federal law requires that archaeological sites and artifacts be documented and/or preserved before inundation or destruction occurs. The Glenn Black Lab, among other locations, has stored Corps of Engineer materials for decades.

"We have hundreds of boxes of materials that have yet to be properly rehabilitated, not just from the Corps but also from other Glenn Black projects in Indiana," Baumann says. "The vets in the Veterans Curation Project are providing a wonderful service to us by bringing these collections up to modern standards and providing finding aids for future researchers."

The St. Louis VCP site, which opened in January, is one of three laboratories opened by the Corps. The other two labs are in Augusta, Ga., and Washington, D.C. Approximately 10 veterans are being trained and employed for up to six months at each laboratory; after six months, another group of veterans is rotated into the lab for training and employment.

During an April visit to the St. Louis site, Baumann spent some time with the veterans, discussing curation methodologies and helping with training. He was impressed with the job the veterans are doing and excited about the job-training potential of the project, which has already placed one vet in a full-time archival position.

"The materials are going to come back to us in pristine condition," Baumann says. "They're helping the Glenn Black Lab greatly, but I hope we are also helping them by giving them new skills they can use elsewhere."

"I think this project is opening the vets' eyes," Baumann continues. "I think they now understand the human legacy of the United States in a new way as well as all the disciplines and fields in which archaeology has applications."

The Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. For more information on the Glenn Black Laboratory, visit