When you walk into Dr. Lynne Kvapil’s office in Jordan Hall, you’ll likely see a binder full of ancient Greek and Roman coins, a ceramic bowl or two, and stacks and stacks of other artifacts and replicas. And she will gladly show you any of them.
Kvapil is an Assistant Professor of Classics at Butler, as well as a practicing archaeologist. These items are all a part of the Ancient Mediterranean Cultures and Archaeology Mobile Lab, of which Kvapil is a director, along with Associate Professor of Classics, Chris Bungard.
“We have a bunch of stuff, and the goal is for students to get their hands on things,” Kvapil said. “Short term, we want to get these materials in more classes at Butler. I think the long term is to get them into the Indianapolis area, to really create a network of people in the Indianapolis area who want to see these resources coming in and out.”
The lab’s extensive collection is made up of materials that are relevant to the ancient world, specifically Greece and Rome, but there are some items that branch out around the Mediterranean as well, such as reproductions of Egyptian papyrus.
The lab operates as a collection, through which items can be loaned out to classrooms at Butler or kindergarten-through-high school classrooms in the Indianapolis area. Kvapil said that the primary purpose of the lab is to provide a way of learning that is different from a traditional classroom, but also to provide materials for possible research opportunities.
The lab started in fall 2015, financed by a Butler Innovation Fund grant, but they had only a year to spend the money. Most of the first year was shopping around to see what materials were out there for purchase.
Since the shopping has been completed, Kvapil said that the majority of the work to be done with the lab is regarding what to do about their loan policy.
“We are still trying to figure out things like what do we do if we loan out a cup and someone trashes it, how do we replace that and what is our legal policy there,” Kvapil said. “These are some nitty-gritty things that take some time to hash out.”
Because the lab has accumulated so many artifacts and other materials, there is always more work to be done. Kvapil employs two student-interns every year to help with the organization and curation of the lab.
“The interns really make this place run,” Kvapil said. “We want to always spotlight Butler students and what they are doing. I think it is really important to make sure that the people that work with us get some publicity.”
Wendy Vencel ’20 has been an intern with the lab for the last two years. She is also the president of the Classics Club. Besides working to help keep the lab running smoothly, Vencel has been trying to use the lab to help plan events with the Classics Club as well.
“We are really trying to work with it to engage with the lab because it really is the perfect opportunity, at least in the Butler community,” Vencel said.
This year, the interns started a WordPress blog that contains an electronic flipbook of all of the materials that the lab has in stock, as well as an Instagram page with photos of items. Audrey Crippin, a P3 Pharmacy major, made the flipbook. They set up a pop-up museum in the on-campus Starbucks during Dawg Days, where Butler-bound students could experience a mock archaeological dig, in an attempt to showcase some of what the Classics Department has to offer.
Vencel said that experiences like the mock dig are important to her because similar experiences made her first years at Butler memorable.
“What got me into classics was when Dr. Kvapil came and talked to an Anthropology class that I was in, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh there is an archaeologist here,’” Vencel said. “It was super cool and I didn’t know Butler had that to offer. During my sophomore year, I took Kvapil’s Greek art and myth class and I’ve been here ever since.”
Kvapil said that the best way for students to get involved with the lab is by applying to be an intern for next year, or by joining the Classics Club. Another option is simply by taking classes that can make use of the lab.
“People are really shy about being interested in that kind of thing,” Kvapil said, “but we also promote them to take classes, not just in the Classics Department, but there are a lot of classes in the History and Anthropology Department, as well as Philosophy and Religion, that are involved with this kind of idea that the past can be alive through things.”