Pleased to announce that MuseumsEtc will include an essay on our work at the Haffenreffer Museum in a forthcoming volume entitled Academic Museums: Beyond Exhibitions and Education. Emily Stokes-Rees, postdoctoral fellow at the museum, and I will co-author. Here’s the abstract:
Getting Everyone to Think with Things: New Approaches to Teaching and Learning at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University
Steven Lubar and Emily Stokes Rees, Brown University
Over the past few decades, American university anthropology museums and anthropology departments have moved in opposite directions. The strengths of museums – material culture, archaeological and traditional ethnographic collections, outreach to broad audiences – seemed uninteresting and irrelevant to many anthropologists, whose research focused more on the social life of modern, urban societies and issues of globalization.
And so, with anthropology faculty and students using museum collections less and less, the anthropology museum must redefine and remake itself, and find new audiences, or risk obsolescence. They must find new ways to connect to the university missions of teaching and learning. They must expand their contacts, connections, and influence across the disciplines.
This paper describes that transition at Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. This two-year effort attempts to reinvigorate the museum, to make it “Brown’s teaching museum.” The museum hired new staff to focus on a much broader set of university connections; changed its exhibit style to involve more students and faculty, and to cover more subjects; reworked part of its exhibit area into a new space called CultureLab, a combination open storage, seminar room, and hands-on exploration area. The museum rebranded itself as a service organization for departments across the university.
That work is still underway. This paper is a report on our progress, what has worked so far, the challenges we have faced, and our prospects for further improvement.
Biographies of Authors
Steven Lubar, director of the Haffenreffer Museum, is a professor in the departments of American studies and history at Brown University, and director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. Before coming to Brown in 2004, he was curator and department chair at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Emily Stokes-Rees is the Haffenreffer Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology at Brown University. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford; her dissertation was a comparative study of the roles of new national museums in postcolonial Asia. Emily is also an experienced museum curator, having previously worked at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, as well as a number of museums in Canada.