The LCARC was founded by R. Clark Mallam in the fall of 1969 with the acquisition of several thousand Native American artifacts donated by Gavin Sampson. To professionally organize the influx of new items, Mallam turned to the Smithsonian for assistance. George Metcalf, their Chief of the Processing Laboratory, came as a consultant for two weeks, after which the LCARC was fully functional. With the addition of a field school and more donations, LCARC became the “largest [archaeological] research program in Iowa” at the time (Status Report, 1983: 1).
The job titles and duties have changed over time, but LCARC has always had a director. In order to accommodate NAGPRA and supervise student workers, a lab technician or collections manager was added to the staff in the early 1990s.
According to Mallam’s status reports, the original goal of LCARC was “to use archaeology as an instrument for promoting the anthropological perspective - the study and appreciation of other cultural adaptations and beliefs - within the context of the liberal arts.” This was accomplished by training and teaching students how to conduct research, excavate sites, and complete archeological conservation projects led by Luther’s anthropology staff.
The completion of contract work, the process of excavating archaeological sites, and researching for the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist were special aspects of LCARC from 1970-1987. Through the meaningful contributions of students and faculty, the LCARC was able to complete over 50 projects resulting in 32 published reports. At the time, only large universities had the resources to pursue archaeological contracts, so it was impressive that Luther was able to give undergraduate students a chance to participate in this work.
At the time of its creation, LCARC and its collections were located in the stacks area of the old Koren Library - four floors of workspace and storage. When Koren was renovated in 1987, the collections were moved to their current location, a 1250 square foot climate-controlled storage facility in the basement of Preus Library. The workspace, now known as the Anthropology Lab, resides on the third floor of Koren. It is comprised of several computer workstations, scanners, cameras, transcription machines, GPS equipment, a 3D scanner, the teaching collection, and a wide range of relevant books and reports.
The Anthropology Lab is supported through the contributions of its student workers. The Lab employs an average of thirteen students per semester, most of whom are anthropology majors, but also students who study history, museum studies, and classics. Workers update databases and practice techniques for collections management, exhibit creation, and archaeological data analysis.
Some specific examples of student projects include: digitization and transcription of ethnographic interviews for the Chiwere Language Project, designing exhibits across the Luther campus, and writing archaeological reports based on LCARC excavations, like Drahn Farm. They have also been processing new acquisitions into the collections, digitizing paper-based collection records, transferring the old database and object records to a new online collections database, and inventorying and photographing the anthropology collections.
For the last two decades, students have used the Anthropology Collections to hone their research skills and supply objects for student exhibits. Luther’s anthropology program uses its collections as teaching tools in classes and to provide learning experiences outside the classroom. The collections are also available to outside researchers. In addition, Luther’s archaeology field school utilizes the lab’s resources for analysis before adding artifacts to the Archaeological Collection.
In the 2012-2013 school year, our Koren display cases featured the story of the lab’s history, its founder, Dr. R. Clark Mallam, and its work. Exhibit creators were Dan Hess ('13), Kirk Lehmann ('13), Cassie Kubicek ('13), and Lisa Stippich ('14).
Learn more about the history of anthropology at Luther: