October 2014

Appointment of Faculty Associates

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is pleased to announce the appointment of three Faculty Associates, Professor William Simmons, Professor Steven Lubar and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoover. 

Faculty Associates are current faculty members who have demonstrated a special commitment to the mission of the Museum. Faculty Associates have special prerogatives including access to the collections and archives. They also have opportunities for curating special exhibitions. The appointment is for a three-year (renewable) term.

Professor William Simmons (Department of Anthropology) has been associated with the Haffenreffer Museum since his time as a Brown undergraduate student.  He served as Interim Director of the Museum from 2012-2013.  More recently, he served as the Curator of the "In Deo Speramus: Symbols and Ceremonies of Brown University" Exhibition (ongoing).

Professor Steven Lubar (Departments of American Studies, History, and History of Art and Architecture) served as Museum Director from 2010-2012.  During this period, he professionalized many aspects of the museum as well as completing and collections relocation program and establishing satellite exhibition spaces.

Assistant Professor Elizabeth Hoover (Department of American Studies) has been associated with the Museum since her days as graduate student when she served as a Museum Proctor.  She curated the student class exhibition "Thawing the Frozen Indian: Native American Representations" which ran from 2012-2013.  She was one of the inaugural Faculty Fellows appointed for the 2013-1014 academic year.


September 2014

Mellon Fellow Call for Applications
Andrew W. Mellon Teaching Fellowships
Deadline Extended to October 10!

The RISD Museum and the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology invite interested RISD and Brown University faculty to apply for one-year Teaching Fellowships as part of a collaborative project, Assemblages, funded by the Mellon Foundation, focusing on the evolving field of object-based teaching and research. Two fellowships are available (one from each institution) in this cycle (academic year 2014-15).

There is an increasing appreciation in the academy of the power and efficacy of object-based teaching. Teaching with objects, whether they are art objects or ethnographic artifacts, can make abstract concepts material in ways that engage the senses. This “hands on experience” can provide students with a form of knowledge that they might not otherwise acquire. Objects can also be used to inspire discussion, group/team work and lateral thinking, all of which are valuable, transferable skills.

The RISD Teaching Fellow will be affiliated with a curatorial department in the Haffenreffer Museum and the Brown Teaching Fellow will be affiliated with a curatorial department in the RISD Museum, with the expectation of using the relevant collection and conducting research and teaching related to it and their area of expertise. The Fellows will receive one course teaching release (in consultation with their Department chairs) to enable them to develop courses and course components that make use of museum objects in their instructional pedagogy. Each Fellow will also provide a written report on the results of the fellowship. Fellows will each receive a research and travel fund of $1,000. During the one-year appointment, Fellows are expected to engage audiences in the academic and museum communities and beyond, to both broaden and deepen access to the collections by sharing their work through articles, blog posts or other forms of dissemination. Fellows will collaborate with staff to select objects for their classroom use, lead a workshop, and participate with their students in an annual seminar.

Full-time faculty members with a demonstrated interest in teaching and learning with objects are eligible to apply. An Advisory Board composed of members from RISD and Brown will select two Teaching Fellows for 2014-15.

Application Requirements
1) A statement of interest (750 words maximum) describing:– The qualifications and experiences that will enable you to participate in the mission of the selected department, including evidence of your interest in teaching and learning with and from objects;- How the Mellon Teaching Fellowship will support your work and teaching practice, and the kind of research you envision during the Fellowship period;– What you intend to offer to the curatorial department, the academic community and the public.
2) A letter from your Dean supporting the application. *Please consult with your Dean and Department Head in advance of submitting an application so that departmental course tables can be adjusted accordingly.

Applications for Mellon Teaching Fellowships will be due October 10, 2014. The selection committee will interview finalists and recipients will be notified in late November 2014, for fellowships commencing January 2015.

For more information or to submit applications for the Haffenreffer Museum, RISD faculty should contact:
Tracie Costantino, Assistant Dean of Faculty

For more information or to submit applications for the RISD Museum, Brown Faculty should contact:
Robert Preucel, Director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology


May 2014

Mellon Foundation grant initiates ‘Assemblages’ collaboration
Haffenreffer Museum and RISD Museum to further object-based education and research

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University and the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have each received grants totaling $500,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Assemblages,” a four-year collaborative initiative focusing on the new and evolving field of object-based teaching and research.

The Mellon Foundation grant makes possible the first major academic partnership between the two museums, led by Robert Preucel, Director of the Haffenreffer Museum, and John W. Smith, Director of the RISD Museum. The grant supports Faculty Teaching Fellows, Postgraduate Photography Fellows, innovative courses, teaching workshops, and annual academic seminars during the years 2014 to 2017.

“The goals of our project are to explore how objects and digital media can be used to interrogate the boundaries of academic fields in the humanities and social sciences,” says Preucel.

Smith adds, “We are interested in developing new ways in which faculty and students can foster deeper relationships with art objects, artifacts, and digital representations.”

The Haffenreffer and RISD museums, located on neighboring campuses, have a long history of partnerships on a smaller scale, including exhibition loans, individual class visits, and K-12 curricular development. As the first significant alliance between the two museums, “Assemblages” will help break down existing boundaries, rethink our collections, and create new modes of collaboration and exhibition.
Between 2014 and 2017, “Assemblages” will:

• Create a group of Teaching Fellows, drawn from both institutions, that uses both collections (both objects and their digital forms) in their teaching pedagogy. About 100 students are expected to benefit from these innovative courses over the term of the project.
• Establish annual teaching workshops led by museum staff to introduce fellows and interested faculty to best practices related to object-based teaching. Fellows will also lead a workshop reporting on the outcomes their pedagogical experiences at the end of their appointment.
·Create an annual seminar engaging the fellows, undergraduate and graduate students from Brown and RISD, and nationally recognized scholars on significant problems or questions related to object-based teaching and the digital interfaces of art, anthropology, and society.
• Communicate the teaching and research outcomes of the project to the public, scholars, and museum professionals through online material and collaborative publications and projects.

About the Partner Museums
The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is one of the leading university-based anthropology museums in the country. Founded in the early 1900s, it holds more than one million ethnographic objects, archaeological specimens, and images from all parts of the world, with particular strengths in the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The Museum seeks to inspire creative and critical thinking about culture by fostering interdisciplinary research and education to increase our understanding of the material world. It provides opportunities for faculty and students to work with collections and the public, teaching through objects and programs in classrooms, in the gallery in Manning Hall on campus, and at the Collections Research Center in Bristol, RI. For more information, please visit

The RISD Museum is an internationally renowned art museum distinguished by its relationship to one of the world’s leading colleges of art and design. Founded with RISD in 1877, the Museum houses seven curatorial departments and more than 91,000 objects ranging from 3700 BCE to the present day, and featuring major figures in the history of visual art and culture. Highlights include one of the nation’s finest collections of costume and textiles, with more than 26,000 objects created since 1500 BCE; the world’s largest collection of Gorham silver, housed in the first museum wing devoted to American decorative arts; a 12-century seated Buddha, one of the largest Japanese statues in the United States; and significant collections of ancient Egyptian objects, Impressionist paintings, contemporary British art, 20th-century design, and more. As the only comprehensive art museum in southeastern New England, the RISD Museum is a vital cultural resource with a rich and varied program of exhibitions, lectures, workshops, special events, and publications to educate and inspire artists, designers, students, scholars, and the greater community. For more information, please visit

About the Museum Directors
Robert Preucel is Director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology at Brown University. Trained as an anthropological archaeologist, he is particularly interested in the relationships of archaeology and society. His fieldwork projects include the archaeology of a utopian community in Massachusetts (the Brook Farm Project) and a post Pueblo Revolt community in New Mexico (the Kotyiti Research Project).

Preucel received his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978, his M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in archaeology from UCLA in 1988. He was the 6th Annual CAI Visiting Scholar at SIU Carbondale in 1989 and organized a conference on the Processual/Postprocessual debate. In 1990, he took an Assistant Professor position at Harvard University. In 1995, he left Harvard for an Associate Professor position at the University of Pennsylvania. There, he was appointed Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Professor of Anthropology in 2009 and served as Chair of the Department (2009-2012) and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten Curator-in-charge of the American Section at University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (2010-2012).

John W. Smith joined the RISD Museum in September 2011, and has devoted his attention to strengthening the Museum’s relationship with RISD and the greater community, increasing access through free admission policies, overseeing the design and development of new online initiatives, and expanding the Museum’s curatorial expertise. From 2006 to 2011, Smith served as Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, the world’s leading research center devoted to the study of the visual arts of America. During his tenure, the Archives significantly increased online access to the collection and established its first programs for publications and traveling exhibitions.

Smith previously served for 11 years at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as assistant director for collections, exhibitions, and research—and, in 1995-1996, as interim director. He organized numerous exhibitions for the Warhol Museum, and published extensively on Warhol and his circle. Smith has also held positions as chief archivist at the Art Institute of Chicago (1990-1994), visiting archivist at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London (1991), and founding curator of special collections and archives at the Chicago Park District (1988-1990). He received his B.A. in English at Southern Illinois University, and did graduate work at the University of Illinois.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation currently makes grants in four core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship; Scholarly Communications and Information Technology; Art History, Conservation, and Museums; Performing Arts. Within each of its core programs, the Foundation concentrates most of its grantmaking in a few areas. Institutions and programs receiving support are often leaders in fields of Foundation activity, but they may also be promising newcomers, or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve program goals. The Foundation’s grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects.


March 2014

Haffenreffer Museum Research Associate Michèle Hayeur Smith awarded major, three-year National Science Foundation research grant to study women and women’s work across the North Atlantic.

Michèle Hayeur Smith, a research associate at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University, has been awarded a three-year, $605,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Social Sciences program to examine women’s roles in the production and trade of cloth across the North Atlantic from the Viking Age until the early 1800s. This is the largest federal research grant ever received by the Haffenreffer Museum and expands the museum’s role in cutting-edge investigations in the northern circumpolar zone, where it has undertaken pioneering research since joining Brown in 1955.

Dr. Hayeur Smith’s new project, Weaving Islands of Cloth, Textiles and Trade Across the North Atlantic from the Viking Age to the Early Modern Period expands upon a successful, 3-year (2010-2013) collections-based archaeological project also funded by NSF’s Arctic Social Sciences program. That project, Rags to Riches – An Archaeological Study of Textiles and Gender in Iceland AD 874 -1800 ($485,000), analyzed archaeological textile assemblages from 31 Icelandic sites spanning 1,000 years and generated new information on the roles of men and women in Icelandic society, the structure of Viking Age and medieval textile production, the role of Icelandic textiles and women in international trade and Iceland’s economy, creative approaches developed by Icelandic women as sustainable responses to climate change during the Little Ice Age, and changes through time in Icelandic dress. One of the key findings of Rags to Riches, according to Dr. Hayeur Smith is that in medieval Iceland textiles were currency and although “men wrote about how this currency was used, dictated how it was to be created and established the legal standards regulating it, it was women who made it. This research has shown through close examination of the archaeological record not only the key roles that women played in this northern society’s economy but also how intensively all households were engaged in production for international and internal trade.”

Weaving Islands of Cloth takes knowledge gained from Rags to Riches to the next logical level: a comparative, three-year examination of textiles as primary evidence for women’s labor and roles in the Norse colonies that expanded from Scandinavia across the North Atlantic in the 9th century AD and developed, over the following millennium, into the modern nations of Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Through collaborative research with senior scholars at research institutions in Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and the United States, and with opportunities for student training, Weaving Islands of Cloth will integrate comparative analyses of existing collections with isotopic approaches to trace movements of cloth across this vast region. Through these, it will provide new insights into the ways these island nations developed, while exploring womens’ roles in creating the foundations of international trade, developing national identities through the transformation of cloth into clothing, and creating sustainable solutions to climate change that contributed to the survival of all but one of the Norse settlements through the Little Ice Age.

Dr. Hayeur Smith says that studying Icelandic textiles and textiles from the North Atlantic is not just about describing cloth or counting threads. Rather, she says, “these textiles encode important information about society, cultural interaction and adaptation. They are eloquent historical texts in their own right, providing new insights into cultural change, women’s creative and productive roles, climate change, and trade across a vast expanse of time and space.”

Dr. Hayeur Smith graduated from Glasgow University, Scotland with a PhD in Archaeology in 2003 and has been working as an archaeologist since. Her research interests are in material culture, dress, the body, and gender. Her doctoral research, conducted on jewelry, and dress from Viking Age Icelandic burials, looked at items of dress for clues about the projection of social and cultural identity. Her postdoctoral research addressed these same theoretical issues, but applied to Aboriginal populations along the Gulf of the St. Lawrence prior and after the contact period.

About the Haffenreffer Museum

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is Brown’s research and teaching museum, holding nearly one million objects that represent the world’s cultures and cultural development over the course of nearly 400,000 years. Since coming to Brown in 1955, the Haffenreffer Museum has engaged students and faculty in hundreds of successful exhibits and long-standing programs of research, especially within the northern circumpolar region. More information on the Haffenreffer Museum’s collections, research, exhibitions, and educational outreach programs can be found at


July 2013

The Haffenreffer Museum Welcomes a New Director

The Haffenreffer Museum is pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Preucel as its new Director beginning July 1, 2013. 

Bob comes to us from the University of Pennsylvania where he was Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Curator-in-charge of the American Section at the Penn Museum, and Director of the Center for Native American Studies.

Bob is a Southwestern archaeologist well known for his work on the archaeology of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  For the past seventeen years, he has been conducting collaborative research with the Pueblo of Cochiti in New Mexico focusing on the history and cultural significance of Kotyiti Pueblo, their mesa top village occupied just after the revolt. 

Welcome Bob!


June 2013

Masks and Mask Makers of Bangwa

Follow link to article at Brown University.


Masks and mask makers of Bangwa from Brown University on Vimeo.


April 2013

Call for Applications for New Faculty Fellows Program

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is pleased to invite proposals from tenure-track faculty at Brown University for a Faculty Fellows Program to support the development of courses and course components using the Haffenreffer’s collections. The Provost and Dean of the College, in support of this initiative, have provided funds for five fellow awards for 2013-2014. Each fellow will be provided with a stipend of $2000 that may be used either for supplemental salary or research development expenses.

We will hold informational meetings for interested faculty at the Haffenreffer in Manning Hall on Friday, April 12, from 12-2, and on Friday, April 19 from 12-2. Please RSVP to Jennifer Stampe, Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology ( if you plan to attend one of these two sessions. If you cannot attend either session but are interested in applying, please let her know.

Proposals are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 26, to William Simmons, Interim Director of the Haffenreffer and Professor of Anthropology, Box 1921, or

See for more information and full application instructions.

September 2011

Graduate Student Collects Objects from Taiwan for Museum Exhibit

Anthropology graduate student Christy DeLair spent her summer in Taiwan collecting contemporary indigenous craftwork for the Haffenreffer Museum.  Christy’s interests include indigenous identity and the role of material culture in shaping relations within and between communities. She has conducted fieldwork among Aboriginal craft workshops in Taitung, Taiwan for her dissertation research (beginning in 2009 with funding from the Fulbright Foundation and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation).  Christy received a Collections Grant from the Museum to return to Taiwan over the summer and visit indigenous workshops around the island to collect pieces which are now part of the Museum’s permanent collections and represent material culture of the Atayal, Saisiat, Rukai, Paiwan, Puyuma, Amis, Bunun, and Taroko tribes. In addition, Christy will curate an exhibit at the Museum featuring these works and her research.  Be on the lookout for announcements for this upcoming exhibit, opening in November.

May 2011

New Student Exhibit Looks to Brown Students

Seeing Ourselves, Showing Ourselves:  Brown's Culture on Display was curated by graduate students from Brown’s public humanities program. It explores a local and familiar culture – the culture of Brown undergraduates - through the trail of information left by found and archived objects. The students picked three categories of artifacts, categories traditional to anthropology museums, and turned them into mirrors, not lenses. They focused on objects of group identity; objects that create an official record by memorialization or archiving; and remnants, archaeological or collected. Objects came from the Brown University Archives, from the Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology and the Ancient World, and from what museums call “field collecting,” acquiring things left behind at, for example, Brown’s infamous SexPowerGod fall ritual.

They then selected objects from the Haffenreffer Museum’s own collection that fit into these same categories, showing how objects from cultures around the world share these functions and purposes. Items as diverse as Native American initiation dress, an Ashanti  stool, cuneiform tablets, and  Taíno pottery sherds reiterated the same categories.


March 2011

The Museum Participates in a University-Wide exhibition on Haitian Art

As a part of the exhibition Reframing Haiti: Art, History, Performativity Boston-based Manbo Asagwe (high ranking Vodou priestess) installed an altar for the Vodou spirit Lasiren in the Haffenreffer Museum, using objects from our collections as well as objects from Evans' ounfò (temple). The altar is a part of an installation meant to educate the audience about Haitian Vodou, which serves more generally to "reframe" prejudices against Haitian history and religion. 



December 2010

Haffenreffer Museum is Featured in the New Roberts Campus Center

The Unviveristy has given the Museum a space to place an exhibit disply in a prominent location at the new Roberts Campus Center.  The first exhibit is Exquisite Things:  Connecting Collections / Collecting Connections.  The objects in Exquisite Things were chosen using a variation of the Surrealist game exquisite corpse. Nine people (a museum curator and eight students) each selected one thing - in sequence, one after another. Rather than following a specific theme, each person chose an object based on how they thought it connected to the object chosen just before them. The result is not only a collection of objects from the museum, but also a collection of the connections students make between things and how we perceive meaning through these connections.

The students designed the exhibition to invite others to encounter the objects they chose in an unexpected context, prompting visitors to wonder why they were chosen. An online interactive exhibition ( was also developed to allow visitors to submit their thoughts about how each object connects to the rest, creating a collection of connections that reveal the multiple ways visitors interpret and perceive relationships within museum exhibitions.


October 2010

New Student Exhibition at the Haffenreffer Museum:  Reimagining Columbus, Reimagining Columbus Day

Controversy erupted last year when, in response to students’ protests of the university’s celebration of Columbus Day, Brown changed the name of the holiday to “Fall Weekend.” This exhibition continues the discussion about the history and future of Columbus Day. It provides historical background to help understand how our national holidays, which we sometimes take for granted, are invented, and how they reflect changing ideas about what’s important in the American past. Visitors will see why and how Italian Americans lobbied the nation to celebrate Columbus, learn about the rise of American Indian activism, and see why the celebration of Columbus is problematic for contemporary Native Americans. The exhibition showcases objects from Haffenreffer Museum and from the University’s special collections and archives.

“Reimagining Columbus, Reimagining Columbus Day” is part of the larger exhibition “Reimagining the Americas,” which explores innovative anthropological ideas and evocative artifacts from the Amazon to the Arctic show recent interpretations of the Americas before European contact.

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology hosts changing exhibitions curated by Brown University students working with the Haffenreffer Museum’s staff.  Located on Brown's main green, it is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays and Brown University Holidays.  Admission is free. The gallery phone number is 401-863-2065.

Note: The Haffenreffer Museum is open Monday, Columbus Day.


  August 2010

An Update on the Museum's Facilities in Bristol

For nearly 80 years, Rudolf Haffenreffer’s buildings on the Mount Hope Grant in Bristol, Rhode Island, were the public face of the Haffenreffer Museum. Exhibitions, lectures and education programs provided venues for the public to explore its collections and opportunities to visit Mt. Hope itself. Behind the scenes, Haffenreffer’s buildings provided safe storage for the Museum’s collections and workspaces for its staff, students, researchers, and interns.

In 2008, the Museum closed its Bristol exhibition space, following the town of Bristol’s determination that the building did not meet fire code for a public facility. The Museum’s public face is now its gallery in Manning Hall on the university’s main campus, and the programs it provides on campus and at schools across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

The former galleries are now transformed into secure, climate controlled, storage facilities that will provide our collections with the museum-quality environment they deserve. Our beautiful new storage units will allow us to manage our collections more effectively and enhance access for researchers and exhibition development. The move has given us the opportunity to rediscover treasures we had forgotten about, to rehouse them properly, and to photograph them, the first steps toward making our collections accessible through the internet to scholars, collectors, and students. Look here for a link to our on-line collections, coming soon.


  July 2010

Prof. Steven Lubar Appointed New Director

Steven Lubar, professor of American civilization and director of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, will begin serving a two-year term as director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology on July 1. He succeeds Shepard Krech III, professor of anthropology, who is retiring as director.

Since coming to Brown in 2004, Lubar has developed Brown’s public humanities program and established a robust program of student-designed exhibitions and programs. Previously, Lubar was a curator and department chair at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

For more on the new director’s vision for the Haffenreffer Museum, see:


  June 2010

Haffenreffer Museum Receives Grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities to Develop Curriculum Materials

In June, 2010, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology received a grant for the 2010-2011 school year from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities to support the development of on-line curricular materials that will complement the Museum’s Culture CaraVan program, Sankofa:  African Americans in Rhode Island.  The materials will be available to teachers for free on the Museum's website.  In addition, twenty teachers from ten schools will receive stipends to attend a Sankofa workshop and their classes will participate in a free Sankofa outreach program from the Haffenreffer Museum.  History/Social Studies teachers in grades six through eight who would like to take advantage of this opportunity should contact Geralyn Hoffman at 401-253-8388.

This project is made possible by major funding support from the Rhode Island council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


  May 2010

New Exhibit Opening at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University:  Reimagining the Americas

PROVIDENCE, R.I — May 29 and 30 is opening weekend for the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology's newest exhibit. Reimagining the Americas brings together innovative anthropological ideas and evocative artifacts from the Amazon to the Arctic to plumb the cultural diversity of the Americas before European contact and explore the forgotten histories of its indigenous people. Building on recent discoveries and methods developed by anthropologists over the past decades, Reimagining the Americas uses cutting-edge perspectives to illustrate intriguing, often complex, histories through artifacts of ceramic and stone, jade and gold, bone and textiles that illuminate the past and expose themes that resonate with present and future concerns. From the arrival of humans in the Americas to the rediscovery of ancient Amazonian cultures and the deciphering of lost histories written by the Maya and Aztec, Reimagining the Americas challenges us to rethink the past and to recognize 13,000 years of indigenous achievements before Europe looked to the west.  

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Manning Hall is located on the Main Green at Brown University.  Beginning May 29, the Museum’s hours will be Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Mondays and Brown University holidays.



September 2009

What a difference a year makes!

For nearly 80 years, Rudolf Haffenreffer’s buildings on the Mount Hope Grant in Bristol, Rhode Island, were the public face of the Haffenreffer Museum. Exhibitions, lectures and education programs provided venues for the public to explore its collections and opportunities to visit Mt. Hope itself. Behind the scenes, Haffenreffer’s buildings provided safe storage for the Museum’s collections and work spaces for its staff, students, researchers, and interns. However, following the tragic Station Nightclub fire in 2002, Rhode Island re-thought fire safety standards and enforcement. In 2007, the town of Bristol determined that the Museum was sub-standard in fire suppression, fire alarm, and ADA requirements and that Brown would have to make changes or close to the public. The Museum was proving deficient in another important way: we had had an outbreak of mold in an over-packed storage area that was going to be costly to remediate.

As a result, the museum in Bristol closed to the public in August 2008. However, the staff and the collections remain and thanks to significant investments from Brown University we are hard at work cleaning out former exhibition galleries and relocating collections to transform Rudolf Haffenreffer’s buildings into secure, climate controlled, storage facilities that will help us manage our collections and enhance access for researchers and exhibition development.


Over the next four months we will complete the conversion of galleries into storage; oversee installation of HVAC equipment in both main buildings to reduce temperature and humidity fluctuations; expand space for exhibition development; and begin to move our collections into their new homes. By July 2010, we expect the Museum’s collections to be better protected and more efficiently stored and catalogued. This will improve our ability to support research and exhibitions. And we hope to go digital to make collections maximally accessible through the internet to scholars, collectors, and students.



As we redirect our focus inward, we will not forget the campus or the larger public. As for the first, Manning Hall, on the Brown University campus, remains our showcase for the collections. Despite the need for full involvement of our staff in the project of converting a museum to a storage site, we will open a new exhibition on New World antiquities in May 2010. The lead curator is a graduate student in anthropology. As for the latter, while on-site education programs are no longer possible in Bristol, education staff are redirecting energy into a retooled outreach program for schools.