I arrived as a mostly unfocused freshman at Brown in the fall of 1966, considering a major in psychology or math. After one semester I lost interest in the former, and a year of terror in calculus disabused me of a future in the latter. How I ended up in a beginning anthropology class during my second semester is lost to memory, but from then on, I was hooked.
“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. Continue reading
Have you ever found yourself wondering what goes on behind the display case? Curious about what museum employees actually do beyond dusting off old artifacts, and putting up “no touching” signs? I certainly have.
My name is Theo Koda, and I am a student of Anthropology at Brown University. This summer I am a registration intern at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. My time here is devoted to the documentation of a collection of African objects — as well as the execution of any other tasks that need my attention. This collection was acquired by the donor in 1964-65 while he was working in Gabon with the Peace Corps. It is filled with fascinating objects, but it also contains extensive records of his training, trip, and collection efforts. These enrich the collection — adding much needed context to already intriguing materials. Continue reading
It was early in the fall of my first year at Brown – muggy and overcast (nothing like the crisp New England autumns I had eagerly anticipated!). A few weeks into the semester, I had some time between classes on the Main Green and found myself outside Manning Hall. I had peeked into the Haffenreffer gallery before, after a campus tour as a prospective student, but hadn’t gone through the space on my own. In that precious hour between seminars, the gallery presented itself as a cool refuge from the humidity outside, but, more importantly, as a welcoming and intellectual space that ultimately shaped my time at Brown and my career pursuits since. Continue reading
PART II: REFLECTIONS ON RESEARCH WITH J. LOUIS GIDDINGS
Professor Giddings was a very gentle person who loved his work—and was very good at it. In my case, having worked weekends at the Bristol museum site regularly during the academic year and having participated in three summers of field research in Alaska as his student assistant, I had the opportunity to learn from him about the discipline of anthropology and especially archaeology through conversations beyond the classroom setting. This was invaluable. If I had a question or wished to discuss some topic, even personal, that was on my mind he was always there. If he had opinions about particular scholars or lines of thought he would express them. This helped me at an early age to understand that it was OK to respect my own thoughts, not to seek trends however elite they may seem to be, and decide for myself how to approach the discipline. This served me as a graduate student during the years when ethno-science and French structuralism dominated the field and grad students were eager to sign on to one or the other of these. I felt inclined to be a listener, to learn what was to be learned, even to be moved and smitten by it, but to not personally identify with intellectual cliques. At graduate school I saw that happening among my peers and regarded it as a kind of disassociation from reality. Continue reading