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
Hannah Sisk, Freshman year at Brown (2009)
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
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.
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
Chris Wolff at Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, 2009
As a Research Associate of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, I have had an interactive and collaborative relationship with the Museum’s Circumpolar Laboratory since 2011. The extensive history that the museum has with Arctic peoples and their material culture is, for me, one of the main attractions of the institution. As an archaeologist who investigates the complex relationship between northern hunter-gatherer populations and the dynamics of Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems, the collections of Louis Giddings, Doug Anderson, and others have been invaluable. Continue reading