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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 20, 2011

Photo: Paul Sagers stands outside the Levsen Rock Shelter, one of several sites he and his brother Fay excavated in Jackson and Jones counties between 1925 and 1936.

State Archaeologist will feature Sagers Collection at Oct. 8 open house

sagersThe Paul Sagers Collection, one of the largest and most significant archaeological collections in eastern Iowa, will be showcased at an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) at the University of Iowa. The event is free and open to the public and will take place at the OSA building, 700 Clinton St., Iowa City.

The open house will feature the unveiling of five new display panels related to the Sagers Collection. Artifacts from the collection will also be on display, and visitors will also be able to tour the OSA facility and its various collections. At 1:30 p.m., State Archaeologist John Doershuk will offer introductory remarks about the exhibit and acknowledge Paul Sagers' contributions to Iowa archaeology.

The Sagers Collection contains nearly 16,000 artifacts from 16 recorded sites in Jackson and Jones counties, including 13 rock shelters. Brothers Paul and Fay Sagers collected the artifacts between 1925 and 1936. The collection was originally housed in the Sagers Museum, located near Maquoketa Caves State Park. The museum was operated until 1988, when the collection was given as an unrestricted gift to the State of Iowa.

Since then, the OSA has catalogued the entire collection and accepted it for perpetual curation. As part of that effort, new public exhibits were created, a web-based gallery has been developed on the OSA website, and OSA staff presented educational outreach programs at Maquoketa Caves State Park for interested Iowans, especially those in Jackson and Jones counties.

"The Sagers Collection includes many remarkable artifacts, but it is an especially useful representation of the Woodland-era cultures that made use of eastern Iowa from around 800 B.C. to A.D. 1200," Doershuk said. "Several of the Sagers' rock shelters still serve today as the 'type sites' for specific pottery decorative forms recognized by modern archaeologists as particularly significant for understanding the sequence of Iowa's cultural development."

Paul and Fay Sagers became interested in archaeology as teens after their father introduced them to Frank Ellis, who had a large collection of artifacts from sites near Maquoketa. Ellis introduced Paul to Charles R. Keyes, director of the Iowa Archaeological Survey in 1925. Inspired by Keyes, Paul documented his excavations in several journals.

In 1934, Paul opened an exhibit at his parents' home. As the collection grew, he decided to build a permanent collection near Maquoketa Caves State Park in order to keep the artifacts close to where they were discovered. Working with his son Lane, he quarried limestone and constructed the museum building between 1945 and 1949. The Sagers Museum was opened in 1951 and operated by Paul and his wife, Nettie, until Paul's death in 1982. Nettie continued to operate the museum with the help of her family until 1988.

Earlier this year, OSA staff members Lynn Alex and John Cordell returned to Jackson County, making a presentation about the Sagers Collection to a crowd assembled at the Hurstville Interpretive Center. The event was co-sponsored by the Jackson County Conservation Board and the Friends of Maquoketa Caves. A visit to the Levsen Rock Shelter followed the presentation. The archaeological collection recovered by Sagers from the Levsen Rock Shelter is featured in the new exhibit at OSA.

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SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: John Doershuk, 319-384-0751.; Steve Parrott, 319-384-0037,