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VCU Archaeology

Adapting to changing logistical circumstances

Note from Bernard K. Means: This blog is related to a course entitled Visualizing and Exhibiting Anthropology. As you can see, students were tasked with creating an exhibit, as well as presenting a research poster at the Spring Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium. Included here is a reflective blog, a one page summary for the student’s part of the exhibit, and the presented research poster. Blanks on the poster were places where 3-D printed  replicas were placed.

by Alethea Stelmack

bkm_2018-05-01 10.02.09

Holding a replica ushabti

I was interested in signing up for ANTH 430 because it is a museum studies oriented class. I thought it might work nicely with my internship at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and on the first day of ANTH 430 Visualizing and Exhibiting Anthropology, I was happy to find that there were just four other students taking the class. The small class size allowed us to move around campus and adapt to changing logistical circumstances when our classroom was pulled out from underneath us. The required texts seemed like interesting theory driven works that would both supplement my internship and prepare me for public exhibitions and outreach in the future.

Object lessons were an integral part of the class. Having guest speakers who were working as educators and researchers put a face to the name of public and applied anthropology. Seeing how passionate these guest speakers were about educating people with an experience and engaging the sense of touch and sight with 3D models, artifacts, and models of relatively local archaeological sites made a career in anthropology seem more realistic.

bkm_2018-05-01 10.11.53

For the actual exhibit, I was excited to try my hand at imparting some of the research I had done to my peers. To create this exhibit, objects were selected based on their visual impact and their ability to illustrate the intricacies of ancient Egyptian society. They were 3D printed and painted to look like the real thing, though sometimes had to be scaled down to fit in the space. A variety of materials reconstructed the environment and heightened artistic technology implies social class standing and structure. The gold adorned coffin of Nesiur and her forensic reconstruction hopefully brings to mind shared humanity while also begging the question of who in Egyptian society could afford to be mummified. Meanwhile funerary objects like the aqua colored ushabti illustrate Egyptian mythology and beliefs about the afterlife, which in many ways, was just as important as this life.

My experience in Visualizing and Exhibiting Anthropology did fit in nicely with my internship, where I’ve been assessing the audience of a local art museum with the intention of broadening the reach to serve as many people as possible. The readings for the class added a solid theoretical background for museum studies though I must confess that I did not read every book cover to cover.  By applying ideas I’ve conceptualized during the course of this class, I think we’ve succeeded in creating an exhibit that is accessible, interesting, and relevant.


Stelmack Egypt UROP Final



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