Abby K. asks: “What made you want to become an archaeologist or anthropologist?”
Hi Abby, I appreciate the question and any opportunity to talk about museums and/or anthropology!
I was interested in museums before I was interested in anthropology, having a life-long fascination with the material qualities of the ‘things’ of the world. I am as fascinated by people as I am by the things they make, use or encounter, but, being shy, it took me longer to come to my love of anthropology and embrace my interest in people. After earning an undergraduate degree in art history and then working in museums in the United States and abroad, it was only then that I went back to school to study cultural anthropology (the study of cultural variation among humans). I did this out of a growing interest in anthropology, and also as a way to push through my anxiety of talking to people, because when you are a cultural anthropologist, you have to talk to people, yikes! Working in museums as an anthropologist, I get to have this wonderful experience of observing people through materiality. I get to ask better, or at least different questions about people, through the interrogation of the manifest and concrete world that they participate in creating – the world of objects and images. I also get to try and reconcile the sometimes seemingly contradictory relationships between people and things. When I reflect upon the work I do, and try and understand what it is about, I often think of the poem A Sort of Song by William Carlos Williams that sums this up pretty nicely I think, and excerpt here:
— through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Compose. (No ideas
but in things) Invent!
Saxifrage is my flower that splits
Devorah Romanek, Curator of Exhibits
Curator Devorah Romanek in Maxwell “Cross Currents: China Exports and the World Responds” exhibition (2016-2018)
Haida, British Museum, and Pitt Rivers Museum on the Loo Taas Canoe, Haida Gwaii 2010