Chris Wolff at Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, 2009

As a Research Associate of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, I have had an interactive and collaborative relationship with the Museum’s Circumpolar Laboratory since 2011. The extensive history that the museum has with Arctic peoples and their material culture is, for me, one of the main attractions of the institution. As an archaeologist who investigates the complex relationship between northern hunter-gatherer populations and the dynamics of Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems, the collections of Louis Giddings, Doug Anderson, and others have been invaluable.

Our field camp at Cape Krusenstern’s Old Whaling site, 2011

I have had the great opportunity to access and investigate objects from the Old Whaling Site at Cape Krusenstern, Alaska, as part of a National Science Foundation grant that I ran through the Museum in 2010-2012, which also included new research at a site first investigated by Louis Giddings and his students in the 1950s-1960s. The collections from that site have opened up several avenues that continue to be a part of my active investigations and have informed other areas of my research.

More recently, as part of a larger ethnoarchaeological project that I am developing on the history of drum use in the circumpolar north, I have been examining archaeological and ethnographic drums curated in the Museum and at other institutions (e.g. Smithsonian Institution, Canadian Museum of History). The collections of the Haffenreffer are important aspects of that larger project, and I hope to be able to co-curate an exhibit on that project in the near future. Access to such critical realms of information are essential to cultural institutions, and the staff and administrators of the Haffenreffer should be commended for the work they do to maintain the Museum in a way that promotes scientific investigations of the past, as well as the present. The fact that some of them have large, interdisciplinary projects themselves makes that even more impressive.

The crew of the Museum’s NSF-funded project inside Iceland’s Surtshellir cave, 2013 (l. to r.: Magnús Sigurðsson, Guðmundur Ólafsson, Kevin Martin, Kevin Smith, and Christopher Wolff)

I feel proud to have a connection with the Haffenreffer and will work to maintain my relationship with the institution in the future, including perhaps climbing back down into deep, dark Viking caves with its Deputy Director.
Christopher Wolff is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University at Albany – SUNY. He received his Ph.D. in 2008 from Southern Methodist University and two Masters degrees in Anthropology from Memorial University, Newfoundland (2004) and Southern Methodist University (2005). He has been a Museum Research Associate of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology since 2011.