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Sabiyha Prince, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Sabiyha Prince (Coppin State U). Dr. Prince has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

S. Prince

I am an adjunct professor at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland and a researcher and qualitative data analyst for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum of Washington, D.C. which is currently closed due to the government shutdown.  As a cultural anthropologist I have been interested in the unfolding elements of race, class, and other aspects of status and identity as these overlap to shape the conditions and experiences of African Americans in cities. This is a focus that has led me to look at socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U .S. and to explore the continued legacy of racial inequality in the contemporary period.  Most recently my research and writing have resulted in my second book, African Americans and Gentrification in Washington, D.C. Race, Class and Social Justice in the Nation’s Capital (2014).

This forthcoming book uses qualitative data to explore the experiences and ideas of African Americans as they confront and construct gentrification in Washington, D.C.  It contextualizes Black Washingtonians’ perspectives on belonging and attachment during a marked period of urban transformation and demographic change and attends to the impact of hierarchies and standpoints over time.  I present oral history and ethnographic data on current and former African American residents of D.C. and combine these with analyses from institutional, statistical, and scholarly reports on wealth inequality, shortages in affordable housing, and rates of unemployment in Washington, D.C.  Completing this project led me to glossed-over histories of a people and a place too often narrowly construed within adherence to an inside or outside the beltway conceptual dichotomy.  Among my most central findings is the conclusion that gentrification seizes upon and fosters uneven development, vulnerability and alienation in affected communities.  While proponents deploy the language of multiculturalism and diversity in support of gentrification I noted heightened forms class and race-based tension in areas that have experienced this type of urban restructuring.

I am also a longtime proponent of an engaged anthropology and, as such, have worked with grassroots organizers in Washington, D.C. and anti-war, environmental justice and anti-apartheid social movements in D.C. and New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Back to School program appealed to me on a number of levels although I will admit to mildly panicking after coming on board because I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to share.  I have volunteered to work at The Field Museum site but when I was told Power Point presentations would not be possible I began to fear I would bore the pants off of the students in my attempt to support such an important initiative.  This all changed after I read Julie Lesnik’s guest blog posting and became inspired.  As I began ruminating on strategies for incorporating my own research into the process my mind turned to urban change and rested on the D.C. residents without whose cooperation I would have had absolutely nothing to write about in my book.  Certain the students I would come to meet in Chicago would have folks in their lives with stories in need of recording, I decided to lead mini-workshops designed to empower young people around using anthropology to explore their neighborhoods and/or surrounding areas.

The details of my plan are coming together but my goal is to imbue students with (or reinforce in them) a sense of how valuable their own communities are – even those in which residents are experiencing challenges.  I will provide handouts with listings of community assets – broadly considered – and questions students can ask of potential participants in their self-constructed projects.  I intend to encourage those who visit me at the museum to either interview select neighbors or members of their social networks and/or engage in small acts of ethnographic observation within their communities.  It is my hope that this project will inspire students to look at their communities through fresh eyes and encourage them to consider the value of anthropological inquiry.  It is also possible students can use some of the suggestions I will share to complete homework assignments or school projects.

Americans and Gun Culture

Today’s guest blog post is by Jessica Cunningham. Ms. Cunningham is a Social Anthropology undergraduate student from Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland. This past summer she has done field research, based in Austin, Texas, on American gun-owners and their attachment to their guns.

Jessica CunninghamA few years ago, I set off with two others on a coast-to-coast road trip across North America. Like all such trips, we were exposed to countless new experiences, yet for me one particular experience stands out. A fairly casual afternoon spent shooting tin cans with some friends in Santa Fe had a surprising effect on me which I can only describe now as visceral. Aware of the widespread use of guns in America, (although growing up my cultural exposure to guns was limited to gangsters and cowboys as seen on TV),  my unexpected reaction to using a gun for the first time, left me wondering just what it is about the gun that holds such sway for so many.

Since then this interest has continued and grown, as has the media coverage surrounding the issue. Now as a social anthropology undergraduate, going into my final year at Queen’s University Belfast with the opportunity to undertake my first fieldwork project as part of my dissertation, it seemed the obvious subject for my research.

Accordingly, this summer I spent two months in Austin, Texas. As an undergraduate this was a completely new challenge for me, particularly since it is also a largely uncharted area within anthropology, so I went in blind so to speak. I wanted to explore and measure the social value of firearms. By using a universally understood value reference, namely money, I asked each participant ‘If I gave you $1 million, would you in return give up your gun rights?’ In almost every case the answer was ‘No’. To what then do these rights equate?

Not having the knowledge to be overly selective, I talked to anyone and everyone in the area connected in any way with guns; including ammunition dealers, skeet, trap  and IDPA shooters (International Defensive Pistol Association), instructors and concealed handgun licensing (CHL) teachers, ranchers, hunters, students and the police, not to mention your average Joe and Josephine doing it for fun. I was completely dependent on people’s good will and openness which I can say I found in abundance. I believe that one factor which played a significant role throughout my research was my apparent ‘otherness’ to the context that I found myself in. I feel that being a relatively young girl from the UK, placed me outside of the lived experience of the gun debate. I was able to present myself as impartial, but willing to learn.

However, I soon realized that not only was I completely ignorant of the ‘gun language’, the technical terminology and even basic types and uses of firearms, but I had also not fully grasped the complex and multifaceted nature of the ‘culture of guns’, namely who uses them and why. Because of this and my obvious time limits, my stay in Texas felt far more akin to a ‘reccy’-style, preliminary research as opposed to a more conclusive academic piece of work.

However, one forcible aspect did emerge from my research, that is the way in which gun ownership is often regarded as being a right as unalienable as free speech or religious freedom. Although I approached the subject under the assumption that gun attachment held deeper implications than is commonly realized, I was surprised by the degree to which some really did hold guns in almost sacred esteem and feel sure that this warrants further attention and research.

Building Cyberinfrastructure Capacity for the Social Sciences

Today’s guest blog post is by Dr. Emilio Moran. Dr. Moran is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.

emilio-moran_profileThe United States and the world are changing rapidly.  These new conditions challenge the ability of the social, behavioral and economic sciences to understand what is happening at a national scale and in people’s daily local lives.   Forces such as globalization, the shifting composition of the economy, and the revolution in information brought about by the internet and social media are just a few of the forces that are changing Americans’ lives.  Not only has the world changed since data collection methods currently used were developed, but the ways now available to link information and new data sources have radically changed. Expert panels have called for increasing the cyber-infrastructure capability of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences so that our tools and research infrastructure keep pace with these changing social and informational landscapes.  A series of workshops for the past three years has met to address these challenges and they now invite you to provide them with feedback on the proposal below and you are invited to attend a Special Event at this year’s AAA meeting in Chicago, Saturday, November 23, 2013 from 1215 to 1:30 pm at the Chicago Hilton Boulevard C room.

Needed is a new national framework, or platform, for social, behavioral and economic research that is both scalable and flexible; that permits new questions to be addressed; that allows for rapid response and adaptation to local shocks (such as extreme weather events or natural resource windfalls); and that facilitates understanding local manifestations of national phenomena such as economic downturns.  To advance a national data collection and analysis infrastructure, the approach we propose —  building a network of social observatories — is a way to have a sensitive instrument to measure how local communities respond to a range of natural and social conditions over time.  This new scientific infrastructure will enable the SBE sciences to contribute to societal needs at multiple levels and will facilitate collaboration with other sciences in addressing questions of critical importance.

Our vision is that of a network of observatories designed from the ground up, each observatory representing an area of the United States.  From a small number of pilot projects the network would develop (through a national sampling frame and protocol) into a representative sample of the places where people live and the people who live there. Each observatory would be an entity, whether physical or virtual, that is charged with collecting, curating, and disseminating data from people, places, and institutions in the United States.  These observatories must provide a basis for inference from what happens in local places to a national context and ensure a robust theoretical foundation for social analysis.  This is the rationale for recommending that this network of observatories be built on a population-based sample capable of addressing the needs of the nation’s diverse people but located in the specific places and communities where they live and work.  Unlike most other existing research platforms, this population and place-based capability will ensure that we understand not only the high-density urban and suburban places where the majority of the population lives, but also the medium- and low-density exurban and rural places that represent a vast majority of the land area in the nation.

To accomplish these objectives, we propose to embed in these regionally-based observatories a nationally representative population-based sample that would enable the observatory data to be aggregated in such a way as to produce a national picture of the United States on an ongoing basis.  The tentative plan would be to select approximately 400 census tracts to represent the U.S. population while also fully capturing the diversity that characterizes local places. The individuals, institutions and communities in which these census tracts are embedded will be systematically studied over time and space by observatories spread across the country. During the formative stages the number of census tracts and the number of observatories that might be needed, given the scope of the charge that is currently envisioned, will be determined.

These observatories will study the social, behavioral and economic experiences of the population in their physical and environmental context at fine detail. The observatories are intended to stimulate the development of new directions and modes of inquiry.  They will do so through the use of diverse complementary methods and data sources including ethnography, experiments, administrative data, social media, biomarkers, and financial and public health record. These observatories will work closely with local and state governments to gain access to administrative records that provide extensive data on the population in those tracts (i.e. 2 million people) thereby providing a depth of understanding and integration of knowledge that is less invasive and less subject to declining response rates than survey-derived data.

To attain the vision proposed here we need the commitment and enthusiasm of the community to meet these challenges and the resolve to make this proposed network of observatories useful to the social sciences and society. For more details on our objectives and reports from previous meetings, visit http://socialobservatories.org/
Please contribute your ideas at the site so that the proposal can benefit from your input and come to Chicago for the Special Event on Saturday, November 23, 2013. We are particularly interesting in hearing how this platform could help you in your future research. This is an opportunity for anthropological strengths in ethnography and local research to contribute its insights in a way that will make a difference for local people and for the nation.

Emilio F. Moran, co-Chair of the SOCN
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and
Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University

Lisa Gonzalez, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Lisa Gonzalez (Wayne State U). Gonzalez is a doctoral student in the Business and Organizational Anthropology Department. She has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Lisa GonzalezI became interested in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative due to my passion of introducing young people to anthropology early on in their academic studies. I have followed the success of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s A-level Anthropology Program and had hoped to some day participate in a similar U.S. based program, whenever one is developed. I am pleased that AAA is taking the lead with this concept and look forward to many more opportunities to increase the awareness of Anthropology as a career to young people in the U.S.

During the Anthropologists Back to School initiative, I will lead a program on Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific at The Field Museum. I plan to discuss my interests in the culture and daily lives of Native Hawaiian people living in the Pacific today. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural exchange activity with Hawaiian youth while at the same time learning “what” anthropologists do and “how” they go about collecting research data.

Introducing young people in primary and secondary schools to Anthropology will increase their thinking about other cultures. Through their engagement with this program, they will develop a deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.

Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Cynthia Fowler, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Cynthia (Cissy) Fowler. Dr. Fowler is an Associate Professor at Wofford College, Secretary of the Society of Ethnobiology, and co-Editor of Ethnobiology Letters.  She conducts transdisciplinary research on society and nature. In her fieldwork in Eastern Indonesia’s dry monsoonal tropics, she studies the materialization of fire — fire as a creative expression of social relations and ecological perceptions.

Dr. Fowler has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Cissy FowlerThe Anthropologists Back to School initiative caught my attention because it is an outlet for connecting with and contributing to the community beyond the meeting rooms and conference hotel during the AAA Annual Meeting. I selected the Field Museum host site with colleagues Isabella Abuchaibe and Natalie Bump. The Anthropologists Back to School initiative provides an unusual opportunity to experience the Field Museum in potentially meaningful ways, where we can be both observers and interpreters of the exhibits. It also provides an opportunity to support the teaching mission of Wofford College, where I work. Other Wofford faculty inspire me with their publications, grants, and continuing education related to teaching excellence and service through education.

I hope to share my fascination with the diverse, colorful, sometimes inspiring and sometimes troubling character of human-environment interactions. In my life-long pursuit of inspiration, I have witnessed many beautiful places and encountered many amazing creatures.  Along the way, I have met inspiring people who have sustainable (and other) lifeways and compelling (and humdrum) beliefs.  Anthropology provides the most amazing tools for understanding those people relative to Earth’s ecosystems.

During the program, we will guide school children through interactive experiences as they move through the “Restoring Earth” exhibit hall.  “Restoring Earth” already operates as an interactive exhibit, thus it will be easy for us to play off of that set up.  We will spotlight the Field Museum’s ongoing conservation-related projects with indigenous peoples in Amazonia, Peru, the Philippines, and other places/communities where their scholars work.  As an anthropologist, I’d like to infuse the exhibit with lessons about how anthropologists determine the role people have had through time in maintaining, creating, destroying, and/or conserving biodiversity.  We will discuss biocultural diversity during which we will emphasize the association between megabiodiverse regions and cultural/linguistic diversity. We will also point to the importance of considering the presence or absence of people in conservation areas and the implications of those alternatives for diversity.

Writing and delivering our presentation will be a collaborative effort between Isabella, Natalie, and myself.  Isabella’s special interest is in American food industries.  Natalie will share her special interest on the restoration of nature in the Chicago area drawing from her research on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. And my special interest is in social justice and global change. The umbrella theme for our three segments will be the value of anthropology for understanding Earth’s processes and resolving the problems the Earth and its people face in ways that are socially just and ecological sound.

The children’s greatest take home message will be a recognition that culture has a major influence on people’s perceptions of environments and the ways people manage landscapes.  The children will take away with them the knowledge that anthropology is a science that asks especially fascinating questions about biological and cultural diversity and has powerful techniques for answering those questions as well as brilliant insights on achieving conservation. so that the school children will gain an appreciation for the value of anthropology.  The 6th-12th graders who attend the AAA Back to School initiative at the “Restoring Earth” exhibit will learn the message that the world consists of diverse cultures living in diverse environments, and will learn to not only value biocultural diversity but also to think critically about it.

Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

International Collaborative Virtual Seminar

Join the collaborative virtual seminar pilot project this month with our colleagues from the Associação Brasileria de Anthropologia (ABA), Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA), and the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) to bring you a virtual seminar on language and anthropological knowledge.

There are four papers which are the core of this debate. Monolinguism is a disease by Bruna Franchetto (ABA); Thinking through difference. The language of anthropological collaboration by Penelope Harvey (EASA); Political economies of language: power, epistemology and the representation of research by Alexandra Jaffe (AAA); and Transformations and linguistic alienations by Christine Jourdan (CASCA). Papers are now available on the website as PDFs. Add your comments and questions now, they will be posted on October 13. Join the presenters and four commentators for their online discussion on October 15 at 7am Pacific time, 10am Eastern time, 11am S. America Eastern Standard Time, 3pm London time, and 4pm Paris time. Participants will be able to see and hear the discussions, live.

While there is not a charge to participate in the webinar, please register in advance.

Julie Lesnik, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Julie Lesnik (U Illinois at Chicago). Dr. Lesnik has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Julie LesnikI moved to Chicago from Ann Arbor, MI in 2011.  I was very active in community outreach in Ann Arbor, especially regarding science education for young girls.  I have not had a chance to get involved with a program yet here in Chicago, so the Anthropologists Back to School initiative is especially appealing to me.

I have spent the last two summers working on an archaeological project and field school in highland Peru. Working in Peru is a new endeavor for me, and I found the prehistoric cultures of the region absolutely fascinating.  I am excited to co-chair the Ancient Americas program at the Field Museum this November and bring what I have learned about the dynamic history of this region to students of the Chicago Public Schools.

My research focus is on bioarchaeology; the analysis of human skeletal remains in archaeological contexts.  One activity that students will be able to take part in includes taking measurements on replicas of skeletal materials and estimating the height of individuals.  I will use this exercise to describe how growing up at high altitude affects the human body, not only through shorter statures, but also through adaptations to breathing effectively in low atmospheric pressures.  I hope that students will walk away from this experience with a better understanding of human variation and adaptation.

Anthropology Programs and Faculty Positions

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Clare Boulanger. Dr. Boulanger is a self-declared Anthropologist on the Loose. She is seeking assistance in her current research project. Please contact her directly at clareboulanger(at)gmail(dot)com with your response.

I’m conducting research into anthropology programs and faculty positions that have succumbed to program deletion and reductions in force, as well as those that faced such threats and survived (though perhaps in a different form).  If you are a present or former anthropology faculty member who:

–lost your position and your program was eliminated, or

–was reduced from a program that continues to exist, or

–is teaching or has taught in a program that was in danger of elimination but was not eliminated, or

–was in danger of reduction but was, in the end, not reduced,

I would greatly appreciate hearing from you (please specify which one of the above categories most closely describes your experience; if none is close, invent your own!).  I realize that those who suffered the worst of these outcomes may not consult this blog, but if readers know of someone whose experience conforms to one of the descriptions above, please give him/her my contact information.  I can be reached at clareboulanger(at)gmail(dot)com

Depending on the amount and quality of data collected, the purpose of this study may be manifold.  First, I would like to keep up my research skills while I too am between jobs; second, I want to know why programs fail and positions are lost; third, I want to know what strategies have succeeded in saving programs and positions.  Ultimately, I would like to learn more about a changing academy in a changing United States, and how anthropology can adapt to survive in what is often advertised as the New Reality.

Standard guidelines on informed consent will apply, of course, and your identity and the identity of your institution will be protected.

Thank you!

Clare L. Boulanger

Behind the Scenes at the National Museum of African Art


Today’s guest blog post is by AAA Summer Intern, Jalene Regassa.

Earth Matters! That is the title of a current exhibition at the National Museum of African Art (NMAFA). During my first week as a curatorial intern at the museum, I walked through this exhibition as any tourist would do. I read some of the tablets explaining about the artists and their art works in order to get the general idea of the exhibition and how each piece fit into the bigger message. Of course, I was also trying to make use of my critical eye afforded to me by my Anthropology education. However, I left the exhibition feeling unsure about some of the pieces and wondering if I understood their meaning to the full extend. Lucky for me, I was not left to wonder for too long as I was given the opportunity to join a guided tour by the curator of the exhibition, Karen Milbourne.   It was surprising, exciting, and inspiring to discover the level of depth of meaning that each piece held on its own and within the context of the exhibition. I was amazed by the amount of research Ms. Milbourne had conducted in order to be able to present the art pieces in a meaningful manner that asserts their historical context and maintains their integrity.

Thus, for me, the most exciting part of my experience interning at the NMAFA has been discovering and learning about all the work that is involved in putting an exhibition together. As you walk through museums glancing at the spaciously displayed art works, it often seems as though they were effortlessly put together. Consequently, I never seriously thought about or realized the amount of time and effort that goes into preparing an exhibition. This internship allowed me to see the activities that take place behind the scenes of the museum in corners that I never knew existed. The staff members at NMAFA graciously organized a guided, behind the scenes tour of the museum for the interns and volunteers, in which we had the opportunity to learn about the various departments of the museum and their responsibilities. For instance, I had no idea that there was a wood workshop where NMAFA makes its own cases for displaying objects or a library where curators can find books and archived documents to conduct their research.


From the conception of an exhibition idea to its realization it may take up to a year to finalize everything and open it to the public. The in-between processes include deciding on a theme, researching artists and their creations, acquisition of the art pieces (with plenty of paper work), and preparation of the exhibition area (which often includes painting walls and building special display cases). Though I got a glimpse of what everybody does, as a curatorial intern, my focus was on the curating process of an exhibition.

Fortunately, the project I am working on is in the beginning stages, so I have the great opportunity and pleasure of working with curator Christine Kreamer to help refine the exhibition plan and observe as it takes shape. This particular project aims to bring African American art from a very important private collection and present it in conversation with African art to highlight some of the common themes and issues that the artists addressed in their work.

My job is to conduct research on the art pieces that have been chosen to be displayed from the private African American Art collection and learn when, how, and why they were made. In other words, I need to find out about the artists and their motivations or sources of inspiration: What themes interested them? What issues did they seek to address? By doing so, I will assist in the selection of compatible African Art pieces to be included in the exhibition.

2meI thoroughly enjoyed working on this exhibition project for many reason. One of the main reasons is that I never had an opportunity to learn about African American Art from as far back as the 1800s before. Thus, it has been fascinating to not only learn about their art work but also their struggle to make it in their profession. Many of the African American artists became activists out of necessity to claim their right to equal treatment. Some were subtle and showed their activism through their art and others were overt as they established or joined organizations that worked to advocate for African American interests.  In many cases, understanding their struggles was essential in comprehending the depth of their work, titles, and comments.

Overall, this has been a wonderful and fascinating experience.

AAA Internship at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by AAA Intern Jeff Emerson. Click here to learn about all of the AAA Interns this summer.

Hello everyone,

My name is Jeff Emerson and I am one of the AAA’s summer interns.  I have spent the past five weeks working at the AAA’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, and in the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard.

Jeff1I attended Luther College in Decorah, IA, for a B.A. in anthropology and chemistry, with additional classes in biology and participation in multiple music ensembles.  Several opportunities have led me to interests in the fields of archaeometry, archaeological oceanography, and conservation science.  Work in 2010 with the National Park Service at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway, Alaska, and an internship in summer 2012 with the Nautilus Exploration Program, locating and investigating ancient shipwrecks in the Black Sea, have contributed most to my ongoing search for a specific interest and career.  My introduction to marine archaeology and notification of the Nautilus and AAA/UAB internships were provided by Dr. Dan Davis, to whom I give a big shout-out.  My ethnographic interests have been focused on two trips to northern Tanzania, where I most recently volunteered in 2012 at a private secondary school serving the Maasai pastoralists by contributing to the establishment of a sustainable soapmaking cottage industry that utilizes traditional herbal and medicinal knowledge and Permaculture design.

While on the Nautilus expedition, I assisted Dr. Michael Brennan with geochemical research of the Black Sea’s stratified water column and the underlying sediments.  This investigation became the core research for my senior capstone project, which seeks to better understand the chemical processes within the Black Sea’s water column and sediments, and how they influence the deterioration or preservation of archaeological sites left in situ.  I have taken advantage of my location in DC to do research at the Library of Congress and will submit my paper this fall.

My Internship Experience

While at the AAA, my main project has been to investigate funding data from the National Science Foundation’s various grant programs, especially as it concerns anthropological research, and to identify trends and ways in which the AAA can utilize this information to advocate for the profession.  Part of my time has also been spent helping a fellow intern contact recipients of the AAA’s Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program to conduct interviews.

At the office: Fellow AAA interns/housemates Rachel Nuzman and Jalene Rengassa.

At the office: Fellow AAA interns/housemates Rachel Nuzman and Jalene Rengassa.

The USS Huron or one of the other two steamer-schooners of its line circa 1874-75.

The USS Huron or one of the other two steamer-schooners of its line circa 1874-75.

At the UAB, I have focused my efforts in the conservation lab.  After a few days of orientation and reading assignments to familiarize myself with the Branch’s mission, I began background research on the USS Huron, a post-Civil War gunboat, and one of the last military ships to navigate by both sail and steam.  While en route to Havana, Cuba, for a scientific expedition in November 1877, she encountered a storm and ran aground off Nag’s Head, NC, where the ship later sank, sending 98 of her 134 crew, mostly Sailors and Marines, to a cold grave.  Nearby U.S. Life-Saving Service stations were closed for the winter.  The resulting public outrage over this and another nearby wreck led to more government investment in the LSS, which eventually merged with another coastal service to become the modern US Coast Guard.

Because the costs involved in recovery, conservation, and display of an entire shipwreck are prohibitive, the UAB currently encourages in situ preservation, except in rare cases where the site is seriously threatened by natural or anthropogenic causes.  The Huron, like most shallow-water sites, is under constant threat of illegal salvage.  One treasure hunter tried to sell several artifacts on eBay, but was caught by NCIS, who then forwarded the acquired material to the UAB.  Our job is to clean and stabilize these artifacts, and then return them to the Marine Corps.

At the UAB: Changing a desalinization bath for the Howell Torpedo used by the US Navy.

At the UAB: Changing a desalinization bath for the Howell Torpedo, one of the first self-propelled torpedoes used by the US Navy.

In order to help fulfill this work, I focused my efforts on a brass epaulette by: 1) obtaining a digital 3D scan and 2) photographing the epaulette prior to conservation, and then 3) assessing its current state of preservation and 4) devising a conservation plan.  Copper, the main component of brass, is a nobler metal than iron, so it stands up better to corrosion.  This particular piece is in relatively good shape, showing some bending and denting, but little corrosion that would affect its structural integrity.  During this last week, I hope to begin cleaning the epaulette.  Unfortunately my internship is coming to an end, so I likely won’t have time to complete the entire process.  Besides this project, I have spent significant time troubleshooting our NextEngine 3D Scanner and adding to scanner and photography user manuals for future interns.

Brass epaulette with encrustations and corrosion residues from the USS Huron wreck

Brass epaulette with encrustations and corrosion residues from the USS Huron wreck.

Possible appearance of the original artifact.

Possible appearance of the original artifact.

At the lab: Much of my internship was spent tinkering with this nifty 3D scanner.

At the lab: Much of my internship was spent tinkering with this nifty 3D scanner.

A warehouse at the Navy Yard. Hmm...this seems familiar...

A warehouse at the Navy Yard. Hmm…this seems familiar…

Click on the image to view the video clip or visit: http://youtu.be/Fdjf4lMmiiI

That’s it. Click on the image to view the video clip or visit: http://youtu.be/Fdjf4lMmiiI

Life in DC


jeff11When not at work, I have tried to make the most of my time living on Capitol Hill.  Living with twelve other interns can sometimes feel claustrophobic, so I often tried to escape the house by visiting one of the outstanding Smithsonian museums, cheering on the Nats, going for an evening run on the National Mall, or checking out a new restaurant or café.  My favorite activity was an evening kayaking on the Potomac and beaching on Theodore Roosevelt Island, one of the few peaceful locations in DC.  Less relaxing but equally enjoyable was a weekend excursion to NYC, where I sought out tasty, exotic-flavored Chinese ice cream, took a jaunt over the Brooklyn Bridge, people-watched in Times Square, and reflected solemnly at the 9/11 Memorial.  The friends I have made during these weeks will hopefully stick with me for a long time.

Take me out to the ballgame! Nationals vs. Pirates

Take me out to the ballgame!
Nationals vs. Pirates

The Bill Cosby Special at Ben's Chili Bowl - Best chili dog you will ever have.

The Bill Cosby Special at Ben’s Chili Bowl – Best chili dog you will ever have.

A bunch of greenhorns in NYC.

A bunch of greenhorns in NYC.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my short time in DC, and given the opportunity, I think I could even make it my home for a time.  The learning and networking opportunities afforded by these internships are invaluable, and it is possible my next steps will lead directly from this experience.  I highly recommend this internship program to any juniors or seniors with interests related to the various locations listed on that website.   I also wish to gratefully acknowledge the member-donors who made this possible for me and the supervisors and advisors who have guided me.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions about my internship or my other experiences.  I would be happy to share.

All the best,

Jeff Emerson



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