Anthropology faculty and staff examine artifacts

The University of Louisville has received a new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a public digital archive of artifacts revealing local history.

Researchers from the UofL Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, or CACHe, say this searchable archive is meant to showcase and expand access to anthropological findings from Louisville and surrounding counties in the lower Ohio River Valley. The archive will include pictures, descriptions and 3D scans of artifacts from pre-contact Native American settlements and colonial life as Louisville was founded and grew. 

“With this digital archive, we can preserve and share that history,” said Ashley Smallwood, a project lead and associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “These artifacts reflect what people ate, the tools they crafted and used, their culture — it’s a snapshot of what life was really like.” 

CACHe has collected many artifacts from digs in and around the Ohio River Valley, such as the one held last year in partnership with the Kentucky School for the Blind. 

Thomas Jennings, a project lead and center director, said CACHe works hard to include the community in discovering history and hopes the digital archive will help further that goal. 

“This is our community’s history, and we want these artifacts to be used and seen,” he said. “This archive is meant to make them more accessible to everyone. It’s for the hobby historian, museum curator, fifth grader working on a history report or those just curious about what life was like back then.”

Development of the archive is expected to last about two years. Initially, the database will feature a curated collection of local artifacts, but ultimately, the researchers plan to pursue funding to digitize their entire collection.