Location: Washington, D.C.
As a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s (SI) Anthropology Outreach Office and editor of AnthroNotes, a publication for educators, Ann was able to provide some excellent guest speakers from SI as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the Natural History Museum. SI historian Pamela Henson detailed Smithsonian’s development throughout the nineteenth century, including its founding in 1846 and the establishment of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1879.
In the Natural History Museum’s anthropology seminar room, archaeology curator Dennis Stanford presented evidence for his hypothesis that the Americas’ earliest inhabitants migrated west from Northern Europe (rather than across the Bering Strait from Siberia). Much of his evidence included striking similarities between American Clovis and European Solutrean spear points. Physical anthropology curator Douglas Owsley and his assistant, Kari Bruwelheide, spoke about their forensic research on human skeletal remains from the seventeenth century Chesapeake. Both are preparing an exhibit titled Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake and scheduled to open early next year.
We also visited the National Museum of the American Indian and were treated to a presentation by Curator Gabrielle Tayac. She explained that unlike traditional museums of indigenous peoples, the NMAI’s philosophy is to present an institutional indigenous voice, a Native American emic perspective. Exhibits are thematic rather than lineal. Some display a few objects behind glass and offer accompanying drawers with additional objects to view if desired, giving the museum a feeling of sparseness rather than clutter. Also, the museum’s cafeteria-style Mitsitam Café features a variety of indigenous foods from the Americas that are not to miss, including planked Northwest Coast salmon and buffalo ribeye steaks.
Our final guest speaker was AAA Director of Public Affairs Damon Dozier, a former legislative assistant for MA Senator John Kerry. Dozier said that one of his duties is to be an advocate for sections like ours both within and outside of AAA. He offered a step-by-step guide to lobbying on Capital Hill, with practical advice that one could apply to many situations requiring tact and diplomacy.
In addition, we went on a “Washington after Dark” bus tour that gave us illuminated views of many of the memorials. Conferees gave the usual variety of interesting presentations, some to be published in the next issue of Teaching Anthropology: SACC Notes. In my opinion, we had a great time.
Lloyd Miller, editor, Teaching Anthropology: SACC Notes.