Six Decades at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Dr. Barry R. Bainton, ‘63/64 – Applied Anthropologist (retired)

Barry Bainton, 2017

“6 days ago, December 12th, Dr. Giddings died – as the result of an automobile accident. I have lost a great teacher and even greater friend. I only hope that I can be half as good an anthropologist as he. God – how I wish IT hadn’t happened,”  (p.32, of My Peace Corps Journal, Friday December 18th 1964).

Dr. Giddings (the only Brown Professor I had who was always “Doctor” to me) was a teacher, mentor, and friend during my undergraduate career at Brown. After I graduated, a year after my entering class, I joined the newly created Peace Corps and was sent to Peru. Dr. Giddings encouraged me to make a collection of ethnographic artifacts for the Museum while I was there. I left for Peru a month after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (August 7th, 1964). This marked the formal start of the United States’ involvement in the Viet Nam War. Three months later, I received a letter along with a newspaper clipping from Judy Huntsman, Dr. Giddings’ graduate student and fellow worker at the Museum, announcing his death. Two years later, I returned to Rhode Island with the collection.  

As an undergraduate I had started out to major in astronomy. But poor counseling and choices led me to fail the math courses that were required for the program. I was fortunate enough to get a student assistant job with the Ladd Observatory, under the late Prof. Charles Smiley. There I gained some experience dealing with the public when the observatory was open for public viewing and I got to play with the telescope. This experience that would be very valuable as I later worked at the Museum.

Smiley, an expert on solar eclipses, was working on a project to relate Herbert J. Spinden‘s Correlation of the Mayan Calendar in the historical recordings of the Mayan Indians of Central America, as found in the Dresden Codex, with the theoretical astronomical calculations of solar eclipses occurrences in Central America. I became involved in his research and this drew me to archaeology. When it was obvious that I would not be majoring in Astronomy I had to look for a new major. That year, the Anthropology Department emerged as a separate academic department under Dr. Giddings. When it came time to declare a major, I selected anthropology, and became one of the first undergraduate majors in the new department.

Barry Bainton in Cuzco, Peru, with three of the arrows he acquired for the Haffenreffer Museum from the Machiguenga tribe during Peace Corps work in Peru, 1965.

The Museum replaced the Observatory for me. I spent many a happy weekend there working with the artifact collections, although initially the job was simply to straighten up some of the storage rooms that the Haffenreffers had used for their collections. It was a really interesting experience. Behind the main display along the furthest wall, was a “secret” door. The door led to an area behind the displays and to another door which opened into two storage rooms. There, on a row of wooden shelves, were stone axes, matates, large obsidian chipped blades, mortars and pestles, etc. The records and numbering for the artifacts were terrible, so I was unable to assemble them by their original sites. So my job became to arrange them by type. This I did. In the center of the room was a makeshift table made up of 5 gallon paint cans and long 2 by 4 boards. In order to create floor space to do the sorting I took the table apart and discovered that the paint cans were heavy. Inside the first can, I found more artifacts, ground stone ax heads to be exact. So I decided to open the rest and get them organized —– that’s when I went in to tell Dr. Giddings about my discovery.

The Haffenreffer family was well established in Bristol. Before Prohibition, they brewed Haffenreffer Beer and imported liquors from Europe. It seems that when Prohibition was enacted their business changed. In the paint cans I found bottles of champagne, sherry, Scotch whisky, gin and chartreuse. Some of the seals had dried out and the alcohol had evaporated. But, there was enough there to throw a party. I informed Dr. Giddings of the find and several weeks later he sponsored a party at his house, located on the Museum property, for us anthropology majors, a small motley group of Brown undergrads.

During that first year working at the Museum I also was encouraged to plan a display of Northeastern Indian archaeology. This required researching the literature and finding representative samples of artifacts from the various periods for display. On Saturday mornings I would arrive, put on the coffee and start my research. Most of the time Dr. Giddings was already there dictating his research notes or a chapter for one of his site reports. These went into a Dictaphone for Marge, his secretary, who would type them up during the week. At these times we would have a chance to drink a cup of coffee and talk.

“We did have some real good talks – about archaeology, his favorite field, anthro in general, and books which he had read and loved – he and I share the same love for books, (I even bought copies of some the same ones he owned and have them today),” (Ibid).

Barry Bainton on the Smithsonian’s River Basin Survey in the Big Horn Canyon along the Wyoming Montana line – his initiation into field archaeology.

The Museum, even after his passing and my return to Rhode Island, was a very special place filled with memories. One memory that is especially strong and relevant to today’s (8/12/2017) talk about North Korea and Nuclear weapons is what happened in October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I spent the weekend down in Bristol at the Museum. The US Navy had a blockade around Cuba to prevent Russian transports from bringing in missiles to Cuba. The Russian cargo ships were approaching the picket line and no one knew what would happen – maybe WWIII. On the hill, known as Mt Hope, behind the Giddings’ house was a large domed radar installation to detect incoming bombers. When it was still, you could hear the antenna slowly turning under the dome. The radar commanded a Nike anti-aircraft battery located down Rt. 136 to where today Roger Williams University has some of its buildings and parking lots today, (for more information on the Mount Hope Nike AA site, click here). Within a 250-mile radius of the Museum there were 2 Strategic Air Command bases, the headquarters of the Atlantic Destroyer fleet, the Naval War College, and the Groton Submarine base, to say nothing for Boston Navy Yard. It was a target-rich place and it was a really scary weekend.

The Russian ships turned back, tensions lessened; Robert Kennedy published “Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis” in 1969, and since then a movie and two TV movies have revived those tense days. But at the time it seemed that the Museum was at the center of the universe, and for me it has always held some great memories of Brown, anthropology, and especially the man who lit a fire under me to pursue a career in anthropology –  Dr. J. L. Giddings.


Dr. Barry R. Bainton has 40 years of experience as a consultant, teacher, researcher, and writer in a broad range of contexts related to institutional and personal development for clients and employers engaged in the private and public sectors. He trained at Brown as an anthropologist (BA Anthropology). While at Brown he worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Astronomy and Anthropology Departments. After graduating Brown in 1964, he served with the Peace Corps in Peru doing community development (1964 – 1966). He returned in 1966 to the United States to continue his anthropological studies at the University of Arizona where he earned his MA (1970) and PhD (1979). He worked in various capacities during this time including as a Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant, eventually joining the research faculty as Assistant Research Professor. During his time with the U of A, he conducted applied research and activity with the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indians of Southern Arizona, the Yaqui Indians of Pascua Village and the Pima-Maricopa Indian tribe on the Gila River Reservation. He was also employed as Director of Research and Evaluation by the Pima Alcoholism Consortium (a Tucson based alcoholism services organization) and later coordinated research for the Department of Family and Community Studies in the School of Home Economics at the U of A.

In 1980, he joined the staff of the Office of the Vice President of Research, where he conducted research on the research structure at the U of A that led to his drafting a Manual for Researchers, put out by the VP for Research Office. From 1980 – 1984 he was assigned from the VP’s office to the Consortium for International Development (CID) as Deputy Executive Director. There he was responsible for managing USAID sponsored agricultural development contracts in the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), Cape Verde, and a host country contract with Bolivia. He also oversaw the Consortium’s contract bidding process. In 1984, he left CID to earn a Masters in International Management (MIM/MBA) from Thunderbird School of International Management.

While in Arizona he had served a term as local President of the Brown Club and the Alumni School Program.  In 1986, Bainton returned to Rhode Island to deal with family issues where he reestablished contact with the Brown community. Since returning he has been a volunteer with the Brown Alumni School program, the Entrepreneurship Program, and helped to establish the Brown Noise (a local campus based Toastmasters International Chapter). He has worked as a business consultant to small businesses and non-profit organizations, and in many capacities as an adjunct faculty member at local universities. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in domestic and international business and marketing management. Today he owns and manages three groups on LinkedIn: Career Anthropology, The Adjunct Network, and The Adjunct Network – Community College. He created the anthropological blog, The Superorganicwhere he spends his time writing and synthesizing his personal experiences with the applications of anthropological theory and practices.  


  1. Ina Rosenthal-Urey

    Hi Barry,
    It was fun to read your post. I live in San Diego married to my 2nd husband, John Urey,. I changed my name to Rosenthal-Urey in 1983. You are mentioned in my post, written under that name. I did not remember the dinner party at the Giddings – see my version in the blog.
    I remember you fondly. I am still in touch with Judy.
    Fondest regards, Ina

    • Barry Bainton

      Dear Ina

      Great to hear from you. One thing about social media — can be instant communication or a historical event. Sorry in my case it is often the latter. So you don’t remember the party? It might have been at Judy’s, it was quite awhile ago. I do remember getting drunk and having to stop by the side of the road upchuck the rewards of finding the Haffenreffer cache. The move from Bristol to Providence saddens me. The Museum held fine memories.

      Let me know when you discover this response. I am here in RI.


  2. Joshua Bainton

    Uncle Barry… Insightful and interesting… and about the length that keeps me engaged considering all that you have accomplished in life.

    • Denise

      Nice to hear you’ve done well. I remember sitting in a window seat on one of the upper floors of the Giddings house, looking over the water and thinking what a wonderful place to live.

      Denise B.

  3. Barry Bainton

    Been a long time. Those were the days, that today, are the opening of movie of another time.

    Hope things and time have been kind to you!


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