A Bevy of Anthropological Opportunity

As an undergraduate in anthropology, I’ve been required to take courses, which cover, many of the different subfields of anthropology. Arizona State University is a leader in research in anthropology so I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by professors from many different areas of anthropology who work in nearly every part of the world. This has given me an expansive introduction to the field and allowed me to explore the world and the many ways in which we can study humans and their interactions. One of the main reasons I really chose to pursue anthropology was because of how abstract yet defined the study of it can be especially when studying people and places of the past. Archaeology is focused on material remains often from long before the historical record could capture it but it can also be a gateway into understanding our future. Working in the archaeology collections at the Smithsonian is proving to me just how important it is to maintain the integrity of what comes from archaeological work so it can be usable to understand the past as well as make important inferences for the future. I had an introduction to this while working for the Center for Digital Antiquity at ASU, where I was helping to digitize and curate archaeological records. My work at the Smithsonian is helping that concept come full circle by working with the physical material.

I attended field school last summer to gain practical archaeological skills and that experience has helped immensely in understanding the site reports as well as making assumptions and connections to what I learned in the field as well as in my studies.

In general, the rigor of my studies at ASU and all that I’ve participated in and done as a prospective graduate student has prepared me for the types of situations I’m being faced as an intern. I’m able to keep up with many of the staff in discussions about things such as ceramic styles because of my experiences as a student.

Because anthropology encompasses such a wide range of fields, I feel like I’m best suited to give advice to those who want to intern in Washington with interests in museums, archaeology, and historic preservation. There is an immense amount of opportunity for students in all concentrations of anthropology in Washington and I would encourage students to dig deeper than the big institutions like the Smithsonian for opportunities. With that being said, the Smithsonian is one of the best places to study and intern for many reasons but the access to the vast collections and ability to work alongside top scholars is nearly unmatched by any other institution. The Smithsonian is not the only place for a museum internship in the District, there are other national, state, and municipal museums which are not under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution such as the Holocaust Museum. Also a number of private non-profits run museums in the area.  Archaeology and historic preservation internships are plentiful in many parts of the government, which makes Washington a great place to seek them out. In particular, the Department of the Interior houses the National Park Service (NPS), and the NPS carries out a great deal of archaeology and historic preservation projects around the country. Importantly, the NPS office in DC has a strong internship program that serves a great deal of anthropological interests including a program in cultural anthropology which can be hard to find. Also, DC and the surrounding area are filled with work associated with its long and varied history. This work ranges from historical preservation projects to cultural educational programs and there are thousands of associated organizations, which facilitate them and they all generally seek interns.

In this past week I’ve begun to learn what I feel to be one of the most important skills I was hoping to take from my internship, which is academic writing from independent research. I’m starting to make reading journals a more regular part of my life as opposed to taking the time to read them only for papers and projects. With grad school on the horizon, getting used to the complex language and concepts of academic writing as the bulk of my reading is important. I have been discussing what the rest of the project for cataloging Senegal will look like with my advisor so I can get grasp on how I might decide to write a paper on our findings. West Africa wont be my focus in terms of region moving forward in my academic career but I know there is a great deal of extractable information from the sites I am cataloging to tie into some of my broader interests. Around two weeks ago, I read the only article written about the excavation in Senegal and I’m now being more consistent in reading each site report as we move through material. The write ups for each level in the sites sometimes contain a lot of pertinent information and sometimes read something to the effect of “still lots of shell, no pottery,” while this information is still useful it definitely lacks elaboration. All of what is written from the original excavations, work done in the area since, and the data I’m creating through cataloging will hopefully lead me to being able to write a publishable article. My goal to write something that I would feel comfortable submitting to a conference is high especially given my time constraints and lack of previous knowledge in the area but I know I will gain a lot of experience in the process whether or not it comes to fruition.


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