Smithsonian Institution Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology
2014 Dates: June 23 – July 18
SIMA is a research training program offered by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History with major funding from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation. The program seeks to promote broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research by providing a supplement to university training. Working intensively each summer with 12-14 students interested in museum research, the institute:
- introduces students to the scope of collections and their potential as data
- provides training in appropriate methods to collect and analyze museum data
- makes participants aware of a range of theoretical issues relating to collections
- positions students to apply their knowledge within their home university
The curriculum, including both seminars and hands-on workshops, teaches students how to navigate museum systems, select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and recognize the wealth of theoretical issues that museum data can address. Topics include the critical analysis of documentation, the development of observational skills, the definition of appropriate data sets, and reconstruction of the "social life" of objects. Unique Smithsonian resources such as the annual Folklife Festival, the National Anthropological Archives, the Human Studies Film Archives, and other museum collections complement lessons in which students explore the integration of museum-based data with other types of information, such as fieldwork and the critical analysis of visual data and the documentary record. Click to view the 2013 syllabus and read about the 2013 curriculum.
Much learning centers around individual research projects that students propose as part of the application process. During SIMA students engage in initial data collection and continually rework their project proposals as they become familiar with the nature of museum data and work on the construction of a research question.
The program culminates in a symposium at which students present preliminary research findings and a refined project proposal suitable for implementation upon return to their home universities. Descriptions of past student research projects are available here. Smithsonian collections are an integral part of the training. The primary resource is the ethnology artifact collection in the Department of Anthropology and related materials in the associated National Anthropological Archives and the Human Studies Film Archives. Students are able to explore issues and develop projects on any topic for which there are relevant artifacts in the ethnology collections.
Explore the databases.
SIMA is intended for graduate students who are preparing for research careers in cultural anthropology who are interested in using museum collections as a data source. The program is not designed to serve students seeking careers in museum management or whose research field is archaeology. Students at both the M.A. and doctoral level are considered for acceptance. Students in related interdisciplinary programs (Indigenous Studies, Folklore, etc.) are considered if the proposed project explores issues of importance to cultural anthropology and if an anthropology faculty member at the student's university commits to supervise its implementation. All U.S. students are eligible for acceptance, even if studying abroad. International students can be considered only if they are enrolled in a university in the U.S.A. Canadian First Nation members are eligible under treaty agreements.
Read what former students have to say about SIMA.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: March 1, 2014
Applicants must submit a short statement of interest and an initial proposal for an individual research project (see full application instructions.) A letter of commitment is required from a faculty member who will supervise further development and implementation of the project in the year after the student's participation in SIMA. Students will be notified of acceptance 4 weeks after the application deadline.
COSTS AND COMMITMENTS
The program covers students’ room, board, and tuition. Housing is provided at a local university and a small stipend will be provided for food and other local expenses. Participants are individually responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, DC. This is an intensive residential program and the participants are expected to devote full time to the training. Preparatory readings are assigned to ensure that students arrive with comparable background knowledge.
Primary faculty for the 2013 Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology:
Dr. Candace Greene, SIMA Director
Dr. Nancy Parezo, (Visiting Faculty) University of Arizona
Dr. Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization
Dr. Gwyneira Isaac, Curator of North American Ethnology
Instruction is enriched by lectures and collection workshops led by additional scholars from throughout the Smithsonian as well as by visiting speakers. Faculty at students' home institutions are important partners who will guide SIMA participants in the implementation of what they have learned during the Institute. Such faculty need not have experience in museum-based research, but they must be committed to helping students continue the project they will have begun during SIMA and turn their research prospectus into a publishable paper.
NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL
Mary Jo Arnoldi, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Gwyneira Isaac, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Jason B. Jackson, Indiana University
Eugenia Kisin, New York University
Ann McMullen, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Howard Morphy, Australia National University
Nancy Parezo, University of Arizona
Ruth Phillips, Carleton University
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