Teaching & Learning

Anthropology Museum Provides Hands-on Learning

Anthropology Museum Provides Hands-on Learning

From the Utah Statesman (10/8/03)

Pottery display at the museum of anthropologyIf you wander up to Room 252 in Old Main you won't find ordinary desks and whiteboards, but artifacts from around the world.

Room 252 is home of the Utah State University's Museum of Anthropology. The museum is a teaching museum, which is supported by the department of anthropology, sociology, social work, and the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, said Lara Petersen, the museum curator.

"It's a teaching museum for undergraduate students," Petersen said. "In all of the exhibits they do everything, they research, design, and construct what you see. They also are the tour guides, do the cataloging, and also the publicity."

One of the many ways that students get involved with the museum is by taking the two courses that are offered by the anthropology department in museum studies. According to a pamphlet visitors can pick up when they come to the museum, in the Introduction to Museum Studies class students learn about career opportunities, different museums, legal issues, and how to catalog, research, and care for different artifacts in museums.

"The Introduction to Museum Studies class is really great, it gives you hands-on experience with working with an actual museum and the people who run it," said Desiree Greaves, a junior anthropology major.

Skull display at Museum of AnthropologyAfter students have completed the introductory course, they can move onto Museum Development. While enrolled in this class they form the operating staff of the museum, Greaves said. They work on designing, researching and constructing exhibits. Students also do the entire behind-the-scene work and lead tours.

Having the museum on campus and to be able to use it as a tool for their education has helped many students understand their major, and their future careers, Greaves said.

"The museum brings it [anthropology] all together and makes it more concrete," Greaves said. "I love the diversity [of the museum], because anthropology is modern and ancient and this museum has both."

The museum has not only been an instrument to students at USU, but it has also helped students all over the state to learn about anthropology. Tours to elementary students on a daily basis.

"The majority of kids used to be fourth-graders, but now they're sixth," Petersen said.

If teachers want their students to be able to experience the museum, but do not have the time or funds to come to the museum, they can check out teaching kits or the museum trunk, Petersen said.

"There is one trunk about the Incas and one about the Great Basin area. It's all been developed by students at USU," Petersen said.

Last year, the museum put together a traveling exhibit to help people have the experience of the museum.

"During the spring, the exhibit went to elementary and junior high schools. In the summertime, it was in Salt Lake City in the Salt Lake County Library system. It is currently going through all of the high schools. Right now, it's at Sky View High School," Petersen said. "It's been a huge success everywhere, the students and teachers love it. It's also received rave reviews."

Aside from all of the activities involved with the museum the anthropology department is starting a new series, called Anthropology and the Arts. Petersen said it will consist of five different events, which will feature performers and art from around the world.

"There's a painter coming from Peru who paints scenes from his local town, he'll be here in November," Petersen said.

The Anthropology Museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day weekdays and admission is free.

By Rachel R. Keoppel, rbarlow@cc.usu.edu
Photos by Jessica Alexander

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