Six Decades at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Tag: 1950s (Page 1 of 2)

Professor William Simmons (Part II) – Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

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

Barbara Nicholson – Pembroke ’60

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

Stephen L. Dyson—SUNY Distinguished Professor, Classics Department, University at Buffalo

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.

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Bill Simmons (Part I) – Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

PART I: REFLECTIONS ON LOUIS GIDDINGS AND THE HAFFENREFFER’S EARLY YEARS

I first met Louis Giddings at an interview in University Hall in spring of my freshman year, 1957. I had applied for a campus job and the application asked for information about work experience, interests, etc. that might fit with campus hiring needs. By job, I assumed it would be something like waiting tables in the Refectory and was very surprised to learn that my interview would be with Professor Giddings, the Director of the Haffenreffer Museum. I had been interested in local (i.e. Providence, Cranston, Warwick) archaeology and accumulated a small collection of surface finds of arrowheads and other stone tools and had read lots on the subject and had been a member of the Narragansett Archaeological Society. Professor Giddings asked a few questions and offered me a position working with the Museum’s collections. I have never ceased thanking my lucky stars. Professor Giddings was the most kind and influential faculty member I knew at Brown.
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Judith Huntsman – Hon. Professorial Research Fellow in Anthropology, University of Auckland (New Zealand)

With Wilkie Rasmussen, MA Anthropology, The University of Auckland, circa 1993. Wilkie is from the Penryn/Tongareva atoll in the northern Cook Islands. He has subsequently been a journalist, lawyer, Cook Island’s Consul to New Zealand, Member and Deputy Leader of the Cook Islands House of Representatives.

I arrived at the Haffenreffer Museum of the American Indian, as it was then called, in 1958, after all but one of the cigar-store Indians had been sold and the proceeds used to create the lower gallery (four-sided stand-alone boxes for small items, a platform along one wall for large items, and a bank of four or five glass cases). Dr. Giddings had borrowed items for this display from the University Museum in Philadelphia where he had connections; other items were in the extant collection. That galley turned what had been a collection of Amerindian artefacts into an Anthropology museum. The rest of the building, including the entry room, had heavy glass cases filled with shallow boxes where arrowheads rested on yellowing cotton cushions.

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