Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department of Anthropology


SIMA Home | Application | Faculty | Student Projects | Curriculum | Frequently Asked Questions | Contact |

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSKevin in collections 2012

Is prior training in museum anthropology required?

No formal training in museum issues and material culture analysis is required. Applicants who don’t have this background should explain why they didn’t have access to such training and what informal types of education they have been able to pursue. We provide a set of preparatory readings to familiarize everyone with basic literature in the field.

I'm really interested but I don't know how to formulate a project to propose. How do I begin?

Get in touch with us by email; we are glad to help. Really. Think about the types of theory that appeal to you, the questions about culture that interest you, and the geographic region that you plan to specialize in. Use the resources at your university. Ask a faculty member who inspired your interest in SIMA to help you define a research question, then ask us to help you figure out how collections might help to answer that question.

I’m interested in studying museum exhibits. Is SIMA for me?

Maybe. Artifact collections are the central focus for SIMA training, not exhibits. However, many students are interested in exploring how core questions about systems of representation can be addressed by interrogating object collections as well as by analyzing exhibits.

My interest is in photographs. Is SIMA for me?

Maybe. Think about the research questions that you are trying to answer using photographs.  Consider whether three-dimensional objects might contribute to the research questions that interest you.

354516_ant02Will SIMA be a good opportunity for me to collect the data I need for my thesis or dissertation?

It can provide an opportunity to carry out some preliminary data collection, but the goal is to learn HOW to access and assess data. If data collection is your primary goal, you should consider applying to the Smithsonian Institution Fellowship Program. Information is available at

Do I have to be currently enrolled as a student to participate?

The program is designed for students who will be enrolled in a graduate program in the year following their participation in SIMA. If you are not currently enrolled but will be in the fall, you can be considered if you have commitment from a faculty member to supervise your project during the next year. If you are uncertain how to proceed, get in touch with us. We can offer suggestions.

Do I have to be a US citizen to participate?

Generally yes, due to the nature of our federal funding. However, foreign students enrolled in a US university are eligible as are members of Canadian First Nations, who hold special treaty status. Contact us if you have questions about eligibility.

I’m studying archaeology and would like to use museum collections. Should I apply?Richards and Beauchamp

Probably not. SIMA is intended for students focusing on issues in cultural anthropology rather than archaeological research. However, applications would be welcome from students with training in archaeology who want to focus on such issues using data from ethnological collections.

[ TOP ]