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.