The Anthropology Laboratory: Where Indiana Jones fits into Modern Museum studies


This next site visit, involved the Temple University Anthropology Laboratory of Research and Exhibitions. Visiting this site offered a behind-the-scenes examination of museum work and exhibits. This experience also engaged in a discussion that was unique to the Anthropology Lab, the inter-relationship between history and archeology. In previous site visits to other local museums, the focus has mainly been on discussions of preservation, audience and the details of exhibitions.

While at the Anthropology Laboratory of Research and Exhibitions we got to see many local artifacts as well as others gathered from different places across the world. One of the main distinctions between this level of archeology and exhibits source, was the fact that much of the artifacts were gathered in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Visiting the site also learned the evolution of archeology since that era, and the level of internal politics of the field. These kinds of factors really decide what an exhibit can contain. The local collection for example, was an interesting resource that tied into some of the themes we’ve discussed. The lab was a real-world example of the kind of practices we discussed. The collection featured was that of artifacts gathered from the Philadelphia Almshouse, where refugees lived during Colonial America. The exhibit surrounding the collection tapped into our present cultural discussion on refugees, through the presentation of these materials.

The Anthropology Laboratory of Research and Exhibitions is in the process of following the kind of model expressed in Letting Go: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. The Anthropology lab is in the process of becoming more like the kind of participatory museums, that “meet visitors expectations for active engagement and to do so in a way that furthers the missions and core values of an institution”[1]. One of the first steps the lab has taken to do is by digitizing materials and records. However, the lab should focus on further developing their “presence” more, perhaps by creating a website, and other means to establish themselves as an institution.

The Anthropology Laboratory of Research and Exhibitions offered a unique experience into museum studies, outside of the realm of historical study. The collections and artifacts there offer an opportunity for a visitor to witness objects and materials they would not have the chance to see elsewhere. Whether that ‘something’ is an artifact from New Guinea, or a 19th century spittoon, the Anthropology Laboratory has these kinds of materials in their collection. Looking to the future, the lab should use this to their advantage and make their collection more accessible. This can easily be accomplished by continuing to spread awareness of their institution to an audience through digital means.



[1] Bill Adair, et al.,(editor)  Letting Go? : Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World Left Coast Press, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central, 21


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