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.
I came to Brown in the fall of 1966 as a graduate student in anthropology. Lou Giddings had died a few years earlier, but his influence was still strong and his widow, Betsy, was continuing his work at the museum. I visited the museum several times a year during my graduate years and there was always a department party on the museum grounds each spring. Doug and Wanni Anderson lived in the small house on the water and Betsy was in the “big house.” Although I eventually focused on cultural anthropology for my doctoral work, my MA was in archaeology, supervised by Jim Deetz. None of my MA work involved artifacts from the museum, but I continued to visit and view the collections and used some as a subject for a paper I wrote for Alex Ricciardelli, then a professor of anthropology at Brown.
I arrived at Brown University in the fall of 1972 after driving an old truck from Fairbanks, Alaska, down the Alcan Highway and across Canada to Providence. I made the journey with my future wife, Mim Harris. I had just finished my Master’s degree at the University of Alaska and a Marshall Fellowship at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen the previous year. My journey to Brown University followed the path of Louis Giddings, a renowned Arctic archeologist and first director of the Haffenreffer Museum.