This award supports the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution which provides an intensive four-week program to train graduate students to use museum objects in their research. Students will learn to collect data and analyze museum collections in light of anthropology's current research agendas, using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods and approaches. The training will take advantage of the Smithsonian Institution's vast anthropology collections and related resources, allowing students a hands-on experience working with museum specimens on individual projects. The Institute will focus on experiential learning, combining elements of a field school with classroom/laboratory training.
Anthropology collections at the Smithsonian and other museums represent an enormous national legacy, assembled over generations to document world cultures and serve anthropological research. However, many potential researchers are not effectively utilizing museum collections because they do not know how to approach or evaluate this type of data, which present distinct challenges. Few universities have the capacity to offer such training.
The Institute will train 36 graduate students over the three year course of the grant, leading to better research design and methodology in research on museum collections and an increase in theses and publications effectively utilizing museum objects. Through development and sharing of curriculum materials, it will serve as a model to encourage wider teaching of museum anthropology research methods and development of similar programs at university museums. The broader goal of the program is to use museums more effectively as sites for the production of knowledge. Increased productive use of collections will allow anthropology to capitalize on the investment made by former generations, as well as engage in research of interest and value to the communities where this material originated.