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The Blog is dead; long live the Blog!

by on October 10, 2012

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Director’s Blog is, with this post, reborn as the HMA Blog, a collaborative project of the Haffenreffer’s extended community. Over the next several months, you’ll hear from staff members, postdocs, students, faculty, and others using the HMA in their research and teaching. We begin with a brief message from Bill Simmons, Professor of Anthropology and Acting Director of the HMA (as well as long-term denizen of the Haffenreffer realm, about which more in another post):

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First of all, our thanks to Steve Lubar for his leadership as Director of the Haffenreffer Museum following Shep Krech’s retirement. Through an excellent series of very-well attended presentations by museum leaders from near and far, Steve provided Brown with remarkable opportunities to meet and hear from experienced individuals who are active in museum innovation at other colleges and universities. The Culture Lab that Steve envisioned for Manning Hall has quickly become an invaluable resource for museum teaching at Brown. With the lively assistance of Emily Stokes-Rees, Postdoctoral Fellow in Museum Anthropology, Steve also was very effective in broadening the on-campus base of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates who are discovering the value of the Haffenreffer for teaching and research. Steve is now working hard on a well-deserved sabbatical, and we wish him well.

I am delighted to serve for this academic year as Acting Director, with the expectation that the new permanent Director will begin on July 1, 2013. You should hear from us shortly with the announcement of who the new Director will be. My primary goal is to continue building the student, faculty, and community base of the Haffenreffer as an asset to the academic quality and cultural distinction of Brown University.

A university museum has a different genius than other kinds of museums. It both shines the light of the university out to the world, and is an opening through which visitors and guests can directly visit the source of this light. The genius loci reflects the collaboration of museum staff, faculty, and students who through research, teaching, and exhibit planning express their ideas–whether anthropological, historical, archaeological, art historical, ethnomusicological, or of many other possible disciplines–through the medium of its collections. Whether the objects are exciting new discoveries being viewed for the first time, or earlier collections being interpreted in new ways, they express what is new as knowledge is created. The uniqueness of the university museum is in this umbilical proximity to the creation of knowledge. It serves internal teaching and research functions of the residential campus in numerous ways that range from career interests in museum-related professions, to new ways of deepening learning through the use of objects, to the broader goal of enriching a liberal education. It also fulfills the powerful obligation felt by this university to open up its educational and cultural value to those beyond the campus community. Being a more tangible than virtual institution, its residential community can build numerous connections to its neighboring communities through real human networks.

The Manning Hall Gallery and its Culture Lab are humming with start of the semester activities, as is the beautifully refurbished storage and conservation facility in Bristol. The Museum staff is a highly talented, dedicated, and professional group working hard to bring collections to the classroom and to overseeing the complex tasks of collections management, exhibition planning, and generous service to the campus community and wider public. They will be blogging here, along with faculty, students, and others, to introduce themselves and to engage you in the important and interesting work we are doing together.

I welcome any ideas about innovative ways that the Haffenreffer can shine its light within Brown and outward to the public.  Please comment here or contact me at William_Simmons@brown.edu

~ Bill

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A note from the editor:  We welcome guest bloggers!  If you are interested in writing about your experience with the Haffenreffer, please contact Jennifer_Stampe@brown.edu

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