James Louis Giddings was a pioneering Arctic archaeologist, ethnographer, and environmental scientist who became the first director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology in 1956.
Over the course of his short eight years at Brown, Giddings founded Brown's Department of Anthropology (still housed in Giddings House, dedicated to his memory) and set the core directions that still guide the approaches of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology as a university teaching and research museum. He also engaged students in northern fieldwork and worked collaboratively with Native Iñupiat colleagues in ways that transformed our understandings of the Arctic past and present.
In this, the 60th anniversary of the gift of the museum to Brown University by the family of Rudolph Haffenreffer, we look back on the life and scientific contributions of J. Louis Giddings. We are hosting a symposium on his legacy at the Society for American Archaeology meetings this spring and planning an exhibition celebrating his research to open in the fall.
This exhibition features his Arctic photographs – many of which are being exhibited for the first time. These images provide glimpses into the practice of fieldwork during the mid-20th century, evolving collaborations between Giddings and indigenous Alaskan peoples, and the birth of a holistic approach to Arctic science.
Image: Girl being thrown into the air during a blanket toss at Kotzebue's Nalukataq festival in 1960