David Gregg visiting the Haffenreffer Museum’s Collection and Research Center.
I first visited the Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol, RI, in conjunction with the Anthropology Department’s welcome back party, in September of 1989. It was just days after I’d commenced my Ph.D. studies at Brown which, little could I have guessed, would take the next 11 years, protracted in large part because of my involvement with the Haffenreffer. In late afternoon sun beside the Outing Reservation building, a handful of faculty looked relaxed and made small-talk while we grad students lounged around on picnic tables trying to look like we belonged there.
I arrived at Brown in 1991 to pursue a Ph.D. focused on anthropological archaeology, with the expectation of a career as a professor following my interests in arctic prehistory. I was focused on the typical academic career track of research and teaching, but had not really given much thought to the public value of my work or how it might actually benefit modern society. In other words, I was intent on making my research only relevant to the very small handful of academic researchers with similar interests. My time at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology changed all of that and altered the arc of my career in subtle and not so subtle ways.
With Vili, the archaeology dog, at Varangerfjord, in Norway’s Arctic, 2011.
I remember coming to Brown in the fall of 1990 with Jarmo Kankaanpää (my then boyfriend, now husband), both of us as grad students with quite a lot of archaeological fieldwork already behind us. Arriving at Giddings House, trying to figure out who is who, meeting the grad advisor to decide which courses to take… The core seminars were a must, of course, and Doug Anderson’s Native American Archaeology was inevitable, but as to the fourth one, that fall semester seemed to offer few suitable ones, especially considering our interest in arctic anthropology and archaeology. The archaeological field course would have been a possibility, but we were advised that our field experience made it rather redundant. So in the end an exception was made: although first year grad students were normally not permitted to do Reading and Research courses, we were allowed to arrange, with Doug Anderson, to do Reading and Research focusing on the arctic archaeology collections at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.
The 2017 academic year marks the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology’s 60th anniversary with Brown University. Our goal, in “Sixty at 60”, is to present at least sixty recollections and reflections from people who have been associated with the Museum over the past six decades. We’re asking our contributors to write about the Haffenreffer Museum as they knew it in their times and to reflect on how it contributed to their experiences at Brown, their careers, and their lives.