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Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program

209 Nuclear Physics Lab, MC-571
23 East Stadium Drive - University of Illinois
Champaign, Illinois

Phone: 217-244-4244 --

Statement of Purpose:

The Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program (ITARP) concentrates on archaeological research within the state of Illinois. Illinois serves as a ideal archaeological laboratory within which to explore issues as wide-ranging as hunter-gatherer theory to the rise and fall of complex societies.

The mission of the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, a joint program of the University of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation, is to assist the Department in the preservation and protection of Illinois' historic and archaeological resources, to carryout research activities that enhance the educational and public service mission of the University of Illinois, and to promote and ensure the professional and public dissemination of information about the prehistory and history of Illinois.

The University of Illinois has been in the forefront of the inception of North American archaeology since the late 1920s. We have continued, up to the present day, to be a leader in archaeological theory, technique, and cultural history in the Eastern Woodlands. The program curates major prehistoric and historic archaeological collections, and photographic, map, and documentary records from over 3000 Illinois sites.

Although ITARP has no exhibits on campus, we serve as a repository for archaeological artifacts and documents representing almost 100 years of archaeological investigations in Illinois.  We collaborate with other institutions on exhibits.  ITARP has over 10,000 cubic feet of artifacts and documents, and our collections include significant lithic, ceramic, faunal, and botanical comparative collections. We also have collections from the Cahokia site, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the FAI-270 collections upon which the American Bottom chronology is based. ITARP also serves as one of the repositories for site records of the Illinois Archaeological Survey.

This program and its immediate predecessors have been one of the critical ingredients in Illinois' leadership in archaeological research. Prof. Charles Bareis, former program Director, University of Illinois was presented the joint U.S. Department of Transportation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation "Award for Outstanding Public Service to Transportation and Historic Preservation" by Secretary Elizabeth Dole.

Highlights & Collections:

A goal of the staff is to further the professional management, curation and display of its collections. Such cooperative efforts may also provide an opportunity for our professional staff to assist in training students in areas of archaeological interest such as museum studies, cultural resource management, lithic and ceramic analyses, historical research, and more. 

Over the years, staff has presented numerous talks at local schools, public service organizations, professional organizations, and other groups. ITARP provides the public with accurate information on the history and prehistory of Illinois through the expertise of its staff. This information is disseminated and provides the public with a better understanding and appreciation for the 10,000 years of cultural heritage within this portion of the United States. ITARP has a Production office to expedite the creation of exhibits, posters, publications, and other presentations for the public at large.


Current Exhibit Collaborations:

* Name of Exhibit: "Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand"
* Dates: November 2004 to November 2005
* Place: The Art Institute of Chicago,
* Traveling to the St. Louis Art Museum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City

ITARP will lend three very important archaeological artifacts, the Birger figurine, the Keller figurine, and the Guy Smith Farm pipe, to the Art Institute of Chicago for a traveling exhibit.  The raw material for the figurines is flint clay which was obtained from a quarry just west of modern-day St. Louis. Motif analysis of these figurines lends insight into Native American ideology before Europeans arrived in North America.

* Name of Exhibit: "Grossman Site Celts"
* Dates: January 2005 to December 2010
* Place: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

The Grossman site, an upland site in the American Bottoms, yielded 70 celts of great significance that were probably involved in a commemorative ritual.  The celts were found buried in one closely-packed pit that was clearly purposeful.

Past Exhibits:

* Name of Exhibit: "Harvesting the Past"
* Dates: from 1/1/1998 to 05/31/2003
* Place: Museum of Natural History, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois

Description: The exhibit features Native North American horticultural practices and is divided into four segments: gathering, gardening, farming, and recovery. The first three focus on the evolving nature of plant usage leading up to corn agriculture ad on specific tools that Native American Illinois groups adopted to cultivate, harvest, process, and store plants. Recovery highlights how archaeologists find, process, and identify prehistoric plant remains. "Harvesting the Past" consists of a variety of paneled photographs, illustrations, and text interspersed with actual artifacts and plant remains excavated from prehistoric sites in Illinois.

* Name of Exhibit: "The Grand Village of Illinois"
* Dates: ongoing
* Place: Traveling throughout Illinois
Description: This exhibit details the archaeological history of this famous site, its scholarly significance and the State's efforts to preserve it. The exhibit comprises a series of vertical panels and story boards, with photographs, text, and selected artifacts. The exhibit will enable the state to bring the site to the attention of a broader public.

* Name of Exhibit: "Building Illinois' Future, Preserving Our Past"
* Dates: from 1/1/98 to 12/31/98
* Place: Museum of Natural History, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
Description: This exhibit features the 40 year partnership between the State of Illinois and the University of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program conducts archaeological research within the state of Illinois. This five panel display is comprised of a series of photographs and text which illustrate the broader themes of recovering the past, Illinois' Native American heritage, Illinois' European heritage, and learning about the past.



ITARP is open to the public year round on Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Its exhibitions may be viewed at the Museum of Natural History, 438 Natural History Building, 1301 W. Green Street, Urbana, Illinois on Mondays through Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Admission & Directions:

Free Admission

Champaign/Urbana is located in central Illinois and can be accessed via three interstates (I-57 running north/south, I-74 running east/west, and I-72 running east into Champaign/Urbana). Both the Museum of Natural History and the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program are located on the campus of the University of Illinois.


Key Personnel:

Dr. Thomas E. Emerson, Director

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