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
As an Arctic Archaeologist, the Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol was a special place of discovery for me. I came to Brown University in 1999 to complete a PhD degree in Anthropology with renowned Arctic Archaeologist, Doug Anderson. I had just finished up a Masters in geology at the University of Alberta, where I studied site formation processes affecting an archaeological site in the northern Yukon. I was eager to continue my explorations in the Arctic and had just finished reading Louis Giddings’s “Ancient Men of the Arctic” when I stepped off the plane in Providence. I was accompanied by my younger brother, Paul, who was coming to Brown for an undergraduate degree and to play on the Brown Men’s Hockey team. Continue reading
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Haffenreffer Museum and its Circumpolar Lab, housed within the museum complex on the Grant of Mount Hope, changed the course of my life. I arrived at Brown after a summer learning about glacial mechanics and our warming planet through the Juneau Icefield Research Program. It was there that my appreciation for the plants and animals that thrive in very harsh conditions and the beauty of those conditions themselves was fostered. Continue reading
Don, Kristen, and Jordan Holly at graduation (2002)
Kristen and I arrived in Providence in a moving van in the summer of 1995 with very little money and no prospects for earning any. But I don’t recall us being too concerned about it; moving to Rhode Island was a grand adventure that gleamed through the rosy colored glasses of the young and newly-married. The plan was that I would start at Brown in the fall semester with a heavy student loan to cover the first year of graduate school and no assistantship, and Kristen, lacking any real experience in her field, would go looking for a job in education. But before that, I’d leave my wife immediately after our honeymoon—surrounded by unopened moving boxes in our new apartment in Providence—to spend the remainder of the summer on an archaeological excavation on the island of Newfoundland. What could go wrong?