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
PART II: REFLECTIONS ON RESEARCH WITH J. LOUIS GIDDINGS
Professor Giddings was a very gentle person who loved his work—and was very good at it. In my case, having worked weekends at the Bristol museum site regularly during the academic year and having participated in three summers of field research in Alaska as his student assistant, I had the opportunity to learn from him about the discipline of anthropology and especially archaeology through conversations beyond the classroom setting. This was invaluable. If I had a question or wished to discuss some topic, even personal, that was on my mind he was always there. If he had opinions about particular scholars or lines of thought he would express them. This helped me at an early age to understand that it was OK to respect my own thoughts, not to seek trends however elite they may seem to be, and decide for myself how to approach the discipline. This served me as a graduate student during the years when ethno-science and French structuralism dominated the field and grad students were eager to sign on to one or the other of these. I felt inclined to be a listener, to learn what was to be learned, even to be moved and smitten by it, but to not personally identify with intellectual cliques. At graduate school I saw that happening among my peers and regarded it as a kind of disassociation from reality. Continue reading
Memories of J. Louis Giddings
My first contact with Louis Giddings and the Haffenreffer Museum came in the late summer of 1956. I had worked the previous year as a volunteer docent at the old Providence Museum, doing guided tours of the Pacific Ethnographic Collections. It was a bit of a stretch for a budding student of classical archaeology, but most people visiting the gallery knew less than I did. It also expanded my interest in museums and in material culture beyond Greek sculpture and Roman portraits.
During that time Brown announced the gift to the university of Rudolf Haffenreffer’s King Philip Museum, in Bristol, by the Haffenreffer family. The acquisition was a rather bold step for a university that had no Anthropology Department, no museum, and no real tradition of field archaeology. Brown was at that time a rather sleepy place with none of the trendy glamour of today. However, it displayed a strong interest in undergraduate education. Brown was an ideal place for a public school graduate like myself, who wanted to pursue a career in Classics and Archaeology.
PART I: REFLECTIONS ON LOUIS GIDDINGS AND THE HAFFENREFFER’S EARLY YEARS
I first met Louis Giddings at an interview in University Hall in spring of my freshman year, 1957. I had applied for a campus job and the application asked for information about work experience, interests, etc. that might fit with campus hiring needs. By job, I assumed it would be something like waiting tables in the Refectory and was very surprised to learn that my interview would be with Professor Giddings, the Director of the Haffenreffer Museum. I had been interested in local (i.e. Providence, Cranston, Warwick) archaeology and accumulated a small collection of surface finds of arrowheads and other stone tools and had read lots on the subject and had been a member of the Narragansett Archaeological Society. Professor Giddings asked a few questions and offered me a position working with the Museum’s collections. I have never ceased thanking my lucky stars. Professor Giddings was the most kind and influential faculty member I knew at Brown.
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