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
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
I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist in the 6th grade and actually got to go on a dig when I was a junior in high school in 1970. There weren’t any archaeological field schools for high school students in those days, but my grandparents found out about one that was “experimenting” with teaching high school kids and sent me to New Mexico (from Connecticut). I loved it and set my sights on archaeology as my career. That meant finding a college/university with a good archaeology undergrad program. Brown quickly became my #1 choice, especially after reading a National Geographic article about the work of James Deetz. Continue reading
My field-collecting assistant, Susan Nambi, and me in Philadelphia in 2013.
When I entered Brown’s Anthropology PhD program in 2003, I had no intention of interning at the Haffenreffer Museum (nor knowledge of the museum’s existence), but when the opportunity presented itself, I thrilled to it. I enjoy being around old things, exploring fashion far and wide, and holding objects in my hands while imagining their provenience. My first task at the Museum fit this bill – I worked alone in the quiet, dimly lit gallery, labeling and archiving a collection of Latin American textiles. I sewed tiny labels onto each article of clothing, taking care not to disturb the fabric’s warp and weft. Here I nurtured an affinity for material culture that I later parlayed into curatorial fellowships at Temple University’s Center for the Humanities and Northwestern University’s Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies.
I came to Brown in 1992 with undergraduate degrees in Africana studies and Sociology & Anthropology – I knew I was going to work in the African continent for my dissertation fieldwork and was interested in gender and health – but my interest in African arts and museum studies in general were sparked by my work at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and the collections opportunities I received.
During my time at Brown (1992-1999) I focused in medical and demographic anthropology and conducted my fieldwork in southern Africa, and in Botswana in particular. My research is on HIV/AIDS and fertility and I have continued this work for over the past two decades. What was clear from the very start of my work was that one of the best ways in which I could learn about the community, about the ins and outs of everyday life, of intimacies and lives was through learning what women do. In northern Botswana this meant learning about basket making.