Sixty years ago, when I was an undergraduate, the Haffenreffer Museum didn’t exist. As it developed we heard about it, but it was “way over” in Bristol. We young ladies at Pembroke didn’t venture much beyond Thayer St., so I spent 4 years never having seen that special place. I’m not even sure I knew what anthropology was!
Many decades later, having been a public school teacher for 30 years and then retiring back to RI in 1998, I became involved with a vibrant group of lifelong learners on the Brown campus (called BCLIR – Brown Community for Learning in Retirement). It was exciting to be back on campus, taking semester long collaborative learning courses, soaking up new ideas. Continue reading
This weekend, the Brown University Class of 2017 will be graduating. We would like to congratulate all the graduating seniors for their hard work, integrity, and perseverance. Brown University students have consistently had a profound role in the ongoing narrative of the Haffenreffer Museum. While the museum is dedicated to serving the students of Brown, as well as the local community, countless students over the past sixty years have stepped up to shape the museum. We want to thank all Brown students, graduates, and alumni for their contribution to museum’s unique and rich history.
Find out more about Brown students’ roles in the Haffenreffer Museum’s history through the Sixty at 60 tag: Undergraduate Degree
Exploring a Neolithic chamber tomb with Viking runic inscriptions at Maeshowe, Orkney, during a break from presenting papers at the St. Magnus Conference, April 2016.
My experience with the Haffenreffer Museum can be divided into two stages: In 2002 I was a new mother, newly arrived in the United States from Canada, accompanying my husband, Kevin Smith, as he started his new job as Deputy Director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown. At the same time, I was finishing up my PhD in Archaeology through the University of Glasgow and working on a book based on my doctoral research that was published in 2004.
Memories of J. Louis Giddings
My first contact with Louis Giddings and the Haffenreffer Museum came in the late summer of 1956. I had worked the previous year as a volunteer docent at the old Providence Museum, doing guided tours of the Pacific Ethnographic Collections. It was a bit of a stretch for a budding student of classical archaeology, but most people visiting the gallery knew less than I did. It also expanded my interest in museums and in material culture beyond Greek sculpture and Roman portraits.
During that time Brown announced the gift to the university of Rudolf Haffenreffer’s King Philip Museum, in Bristol, by the Haffenreffer family. The acquisition was a rather bold step for a university that had no Anthropology Department, no museum, and no real tradition of field archaeology. Brown was at that time a rather sleepy place with none of the trendy glamour of today. However, it displayed a strong interest in undergraduate education. Brown was an ideal place for a public school graduate like myself, who wanted to pursue a career in Classics and Archaeology.
In the summer of 2010, I helped to extract the left distal humerus of a woolly mammoth from a layer of permafrost in the remote arctic tundra along Alaska’s Kobuk River. That same week, my team uncovered the remains of two human skeletons beneath a collapsed wooden structure just meters away. Peri-mortem fractures suggested a struggle. I camped for weeks along the river in the wilderness with only a handful of other students and archeologists. We had no electricity, no internet, no iPhones. The sun lingered high in the sky all day and all night. Some days it rained so hard I blended in with the mud. I was polka-dotted with mosquito bites. I learned to sleep with an eye mask to block the constant sun and bear spray tucked under one arm. I learned not to spray bear spray into the wind. I learned how to excavate fragile artifacts and bones with precision, how to live in the wilderness (with the help of a camp guide, candy, and tents provided by the NSF). I learned to chop a tree. I developed a vague sense of direction without my beloved GPS. While these may seem like minor accomplishments (or in the case of bear spray, common sense), prior to this excavation, I’d never even slept in a tent. Continue reading