Courtesy of the Chickasaw Nation. All rights reserved.
Meet our team of NAGPRA professionals
Cindy Gardner, Museum Division Director
Cindy Gardner began her career at MDAH in 1999 when she was hired as registrar for the Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History. During her time at MDAH, she has served as field services curator, director of historic objects collection, project manager for the Two Mississippi Museums building and for the exhibits in the Museum of Mississippi History, and Two Mississippi Museums administrator. In 2019, she was named Museum Division director where she manages nine historic sites including Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and Winterville Mounds in addition to overseeing the 3D object collections and exhibits for MDAH.
Cindy has helped set NAGPRA as a priority for MDAH and is committed to building partnerships with Tribal communities while fulfilling the department's NAGPRA responsibilities. Cindy says "Learning more about archaeology and NAGPRA has made a profound impact on my work, and I am continually grateful to be able to provide support for such an enthusiastic group of dedicated professionals."
Cindy Carter-Davis, State Archaeologist
Cindy Carter-Davis, completed both her B.A. and M.A. in anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi, with specialties in Southeastern archaeology and forensic anthropology. In December 2019, she was hired as the state archaeologist at MDAH. In addition to overseeing archaeological reviews under the Section 106 process and curating Section 106 project collections, she serves as the director of the Mississippi Archaeological Survey and works within the Historic Preservation Division to maintain Mississippi Landmark sites.
Cindy is thrilled to be tasked with preserving the archaeological resources of Mississippi and hopes to utilize her experience working with Tribal partners to build a greater understanding and collaboration between MDAH and Mississippi's Tribal descendant communities. We are grateful to collaborate with Cindy and the Historic Preservation Division as we work towards common goals.
Lainie McCoy, Curatorial Liaison
In February 2022, Lainie McCoy joined the archaeology collections team. A recent graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi, Lainie developed an interest in archaeology at a very young age. Throughout her education in cultural resource policy, Lainie developed a true passion for the meaningful work of repatriation and collaboration with Tribal partners. While at USM, she enjoyed participating in several field studies as well as sorting and cataloguing artifacts, and is continuing that work at MDAH by inventorying collections and identifying NAGPRA objects.
Jessica Walzer, NAGPRA Coordinator
Jessica Walzer has called Mississippi home for many years. After completing her B.A. at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she returned home and began working with MDAH in July 2019 when she was hired under contract to catalog NAGPRA collections transferred from the DeSoto County Historical Museum. Jessica’s initiative led to the submission of MDAH’s first NAGPRA Summary in Fall 2019. Jessica is committed to continuing the documentation of funerary objects and overseeing inventory updates. Recently, Jessica has created MDAH’s first fully virtual internship designed to educate students on the NAGPRA process.
When asked about this work, Jessica responded “I strongly believe in the work we are doing at MDAH, and I am proud be a part of this incredible team. I hope that we are righting some of the wrongs of the past and helping these people get home.”
Robert Waren, Grants & Projects Manager
Robert Waren, from Brandon, Mississippi, is a graduate of the University of Mississippi with a background in archaeology. He began working at MDAH in January of 2020 under contract to help manage the relocation of collections into the new curation space. In October 2020, he was hired as NAGPRA collections manager thanks to grant funding awarded from the National NAGPRA Program in summer 2020.
Additionally, Robert oversaw the creation of a new organizational plan for collections storage based on areas of Tribal interest, rather than alphabetically by county. Robert is currently hard at work cataloging assemblages from Tunica and Coahoma Counties for consultation, transfer, and repatriation.
Mary Ashley Stough, Bioarchaeologist
Mary Ashley Stough received her B.A. in Anthropology from Tulane University and her M.A. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After completing a bioarchaeology field school in Greece in 2017, Mary went on to do field work in Alaska and has worked at several museums in Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Louisiana. She has been conducting osteological inventory and assessment for MDAH since October 2022.
Mary believes that repatriation is very meaningful, long overdue work. When asked about her position, she responded “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with these Ancestors and assist with returning them home. I recognize that they deserve to be treated with the utmost care, dignity, and respect which will be reflected in my work.” She is looking forward to working with and learning from MDAH’s Tribal partners.
Sarah Durham, Curator of Archaeology Collections
In June 2021, the archaeology collections team welcomed Sarah Durham. Immediately she took the lead organizing our collections database so that access to NAGPRA catalog records will be readily available to our Tribal Partners on a virtual platform. Sarah has experience in the care of archaeological and historic objects from her time at Travellers Rest Historic House Museum in Nashville, TN. She is committed to raising public awareness about archaeology and the ethical considerations of archaeology collections in museums.