Museum Anthropology

Dr. Chris Discussing Museum Displays

As we told the kids today, anthropology is like a great pair of glasses for seeing things about the world that are otherwise fuzzy. Today our intrepid anthropologists climbed out of their midden piles (that’s trash heap for you folks in the audience) to help clarify what they’re doing there in the first place. They are interpreting the cultural significance (hey, isn’t that a vocabulary word this week?) of these precious artifacts to help us understand the cultures of the peoples who left them behind. Since “culture” is shared, learned behavior, our young researchers analyzed the material remains to try to understand what behaviors the people who left it behind may have shared with each other and with us. What did they eat? Where did they live? What language(s) did they speak? How did THEY learn? And to help US understand what their anthropological lenses are revealing, our investigators are creating archaeological museum exhibits and educational talks that will interpret the stories their artifacts tell about the cultures that left them and maybe even re-enacting them for us! We are negotiating with the TMSE library curator to acquisition these valuable cultural exhibits for a showing in the library upon completion next week.

Telling a story from midden archaeology (i.e., what can garbage tell us about a culture?).

Beginnings

Students work on sorting the trash.

Hello all. This blog is intended to provide information about the University of Alabama Outreach Anthropology session at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary.  So far, we have had two sessions, both exciting, and both interesting.  For the first class, we talked about what is anthropology (the study of humans), what kind of things anthropologists do, and talked a bit about how and why anthropologists study people.  All the students were encouraged to embrace the idea that now, they are anthropologists too!

The first class also included the wonderful exercise of…Digging Through Trash!!!  Yippee!  Really, the students went through trash.  Specially prepared trash: clean and not yucky.  The purpose of this exercise was to introduce everyone to one of the facets of human culture that anthropologists study: material culture, i.e., artifacts.  This is generally the specialty of archaeology, one of the subdisciplines of anthropology.  Students categorized the trash as they saw appropriate, usually based on material and function.

That’s all for the moment.  I’ll get back here and introduce the professors and the graduate student instructors, as well as giving further exciting details about our playing with trash.