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The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown UniversityDonated to Brown University in 1955, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is moving its entire collection from its original home in Bristol, RI, to the heart of downtown Providence, in the gold-domed Old Stone Bank Building on South Main Street. Poised at the bottom of College Hill, the Museum will enrich the University by providing a locus for undergraduate and graduate education, and a center for learning for the Brown academic community and the general public. The public service functions of the Museum will be greatly enhanced by its relocation to Providence, the center of the state's adult and student population. Its new location will also provide an attraction for visitors to Providence, including the anticipated visitors to the new convention center in the city.
While the Museum is categorized as a "small museum," its collections are surprisingly large, highly diverse and of proven research importance. This has been demonstrated in the analyses in the Museum's publication series, the latest of which (1994) is Passionate Hobby, on Rudolf Haffenreffer's founding collection of 2,300 ethnological and 43,000 archæological specimens, almost all from North America. North America is indisputably the strongest major region, especially the Subarctic, Arctic and Plains. Extensive archæological materials from New England cover a time span of over 10,000 years and are used to interpret prehistoric and historic cultural development in our local area.
Important holdings from the archæology of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, Central America and the North and Central Andean regions include a collection of the earliest known wool tapestries from Peru. This material, as well as ethnographic collections from the South American tropical forest - including a significant collection of Cashinahua feathered materials - and Andean areas have been the subject of several publications and exhibits. From 1990-92, the Museum cataloged an important recent gift of Pre-Columbian Andean textiles, which complements extant collections.
The Museum's collection of West African wood, metal and terra cotta sculpture continues to increase in recent years through numerous gifts. Many of these pieces have been published, and their acquisition is helping to make the Museum a regional center for the study of African art. Other collections from New Guinea, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Nepal, Turkey, Iran and Greece were made by University anthropologists and accompanied by field documentation, and have provided a wide range of research and exhibit possibilities.
Through gifts, the Museum has added to its African, Mesoamerican, and South American Indian collections. Recently, two graduate students conducting field work in the Azores collected closely-documented materials on weaving for the Museum. In 1993 it added to its Eastern Woodland collections through field purchases from Passamaquoddy artisans during the exhibit "History on Birchbark: the Art of Tomah Joseph, Passamaquoddy." In 1994 Plains collections were augmented with field purchases from leading Sioux artists.
Like other museums, a small fraction of the collections is on exhibit at any one time. The Museum has used exhibit space at two locations on Brown's campus to increase exposure to its collections. Public libraries and schools are granted loans if security is satisfactory. Grants from the Institute for Museum Studies (IMS) have made collections more accessible for scholarly research and exhibition and available for loans to other institutions such as the Bell Gallery, Brown; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Heritage Plantation, Sandwich, Mass.; Worcester Art Museum; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Museum of our National Heritage, Ky.; Tisch Gallery, Tufts University; Katonah Gallery, N.Y.; and Glenbow Foundation, Calgary.
The faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Brown consider the Museum and its collections as integral to their teaching and research programs, and its affiliation greatly enhances the department's reputation. The department originated after the transfer of the Haffenreffer Museum to Brown and is today committed to a traditional view of anthropology as a unified discipline that stresses the importance of drawing evidence on human culture from material objects, observed and recorded speech and behavior, or records of culture in older documents. The Brown department is unusual in this respect, and this is one of its strengths which is recognized by anthropologists in other institutions.
The Museum's reputation derives from its success in publishing, or arranging for the publication and distribution of its own cataloges and symposia. The Haffenreffer Museum Studies in Anthropology and Material Culture has published six major volumes on the Museum's collections. Several of the most important collections have been published, usually in connection with a large, temporary exhibition. These are more monographs than cataloges; they are contextual studies of material culture which are permanently useful for research and teaching. Most have been distributed by the University of Washington Press, the major co-publisher and distributor of such volumes. A recent book list from that Press listed five Haffenreffer volumes among about 20 anthropology publications - far more than from any other museum.
Outreach is provided in area schools for grades 2-12. Students examine in classrooms or assemblies slides, artifacts, clothing and crafts to help them better understand various world cultures. An ethnic consultant sometimes assists the staff member, a Brown student from Africa or Asia, or a local Native American, depending on the culture being presented. Outreach also goes to senior citizens centers and nursing homes or the handicapped who require individualized attention.
Specialized and short-term programs include tours for scout groups, secondary school groups and adult groups by appointment. The Museum also offers vacation craft workshops for children and adults in such arts as flint-knapping, basket-weaving, coil pottery, beadwork, quill embroidery, and soapstone carving. In 1993 five summer camps were offered with emphasis on archæology and the local historic Wampanoag Indian site.
In 1989 new Saturday morning programs for children and their parents were initiated. In succeeding years they have included museum-sponsored Brown Learning Community programs on archæology and on material culture, as well as on Plains and Eastern Woodlands cultures. In 1992 adult evening courses were offered by staff members to attract new audiences. In April 1994 the evening course, "African Worlds," used objects from the collection to examine traditional worldviews of Africa.
Teacher workshops are offered for special exhibitions or publications. A recent series of workshops was on Indian life in 17th-century southern New England in conjunction with the exhibit, "Peoples in Contact." A Museum publication intended for a young audience - a simplified version of Roger Williams' A Key into the Language of America is now in extensive use in Rhode Island at elementary and junior high levels. In 1992 the Museum offered an intensive workshop to acquaint teachers with new concepts and approaches in anthropology and the study of native peoples. Instructors included Native Americans, Museum staff, faculty and graduate students. A Bibliography for Teaching About Native Americans of Southeastern New England was prepared by consultants and staff and is selling well to teachers and libraries.
Events are sponsored for other regional ethnic communities, combining exhibits, performances, workshops, discussions and festivals. Although the Haffenreffer is a typical university museum of anthropology in being able to exhibit only a small fraction of its collections at any one time, it is hoped nevertheless that a judicious selection of objects organized around thought-provoking themes will enrich the various communities represented in Rhode Island. Indeed, attendance of 700 to 2,000 testifies to the role of these collections and related events as reinforcers of ethnic identity.
The Museum receives its funding from donations as well as from federal and state funding agencies such as the RI Committee on the Humanities (RICH), the RI State Council on the Arts (RISCA), the RI Heritage Committee, the Haffenreffer Family Fund, and local firms. The Friends of the Haffenreffer Museum support many of the museum's public programs and exhibitions. In 1989, the "Out of the North" exhibition and cataloge were supported by the NEA, RICH, RISCA, the Canadian Embassy, the Haffenreffer Family Fund, and five local corporations. The 1992 exhibit, "Entering the Circle," received RICH support and funds from local firms; "History on Birchbark" (1993) received NEA support; and "Passionate Hobby" (1994) received Haffenreffer Family Fund support. The Museum has received several operating grants from the Institute of Museum Services (IMS), a federal agency that offers general operating support to the nation's museums. Awards are equal to 10 percent of a museum's operating budget, up to $75,000. The awards are determined through a nationwide competition that evaluates all aspects of museum operation. Each year applications are received from more than 1,300 museums of all types.