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Students pursue a range of individual research projects as part of SIMA, applying lessons and carrying out preliminary data collection. Here are samples from a few student projects that give an idea of the types of research that are possible.

Full abstracts from the past Final Symposia are available here as a pdf:

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014


Irine Prastio - Simon Fraser University

Inuit Parkas of Survival and Social Media
Irine PrastioThe Inuit’s close relationship with the land in the process of making traditional skin clothing is an essential factor in the construction of social identity. Through close engagement with parkas from across the Arctic, Irine added haptic interaction to her tool kit of methods to explore how spiritual, practical, and market values are entangled in the design of clothing.

Carolyn Howarter, University of Virginia

Well Worn: Exploring Gifting and Value
Carolyn HowarterSamoan fine mats are items of prestige that enter strategically into reciprocal gift exchange marking alliances between lineages. At SIMA Carolyn explored the circumstances under which these uniquely valued treasures were given to outsiders.




Robbie Kett, University of California, Irvine

Olman: Making Southern Mexico at Mid-Century
Robbie KettSmithsonian investigations of Olmec archaeological sites in the 1930s and 40s were part of a scientific enterprise, but these excavations were also social, serving as the center of a number of scientific and artistic projects that operated to define southern Mexico itself. Robbie’s research during SIMA was part of a broader examination of epistemological and geographic overlaps that call attention to the social ties and intellectual collaborations often erased by traditional disciplinary histories.

Crystal Wigwans, Columbia University

In the Old Way: The Construction of the Traditional in a Great Lakes Quilled Mat
Crystal WigwansFor 19th century Native people, quilled hide and thunderbird motifs became politicized as symbols of resistance, independence, and tradition. Crystal examined how such objects deploy cosmological iconography to address white eyes, Indian eyes, and otherworldly eyes and how these many-layered worlds intersect.




Catherine Nichols, Arizona State University

The Distribution of Duplicates from the US National Museum
Catherine NicholsWhile museums are often thought of as the end of objects’ paths of circulation, at one time many participated in an active program of exchange of specimens considered duplicates. Through examination of exchanges, Catherine worked to reconstruct the culture of curatorship through which unique cultural products were classified, converting some into “duplicate specimens.”

Clark Sage, Indiana University

Recovering a Symbol of the American Indian: The Ethnohistorical Method and Plains Bonnets
Clark SageThe complexity of meanings around headdresses produced by Plains Indians is obscured by the classificatory systems employed in museum cataloging systems. Clark’s research is concerned to understand an indigenously informed typological framework, connecting information from objects with Lakota knowledge. While at SIMA he focused on identification of the many types of feathers incorporated into Lakota bonnets, preparatory to field work in the community.


Carolyn Smith, University of California, Berkeley

A Wealth of Voices: The Harrington Collection of Karuk Basketrybasket
Carolyn SmithUsing information from Karuk basket maker Phoebe Maddux, Carolyn explored the various contexts in which baskets circulated - home, community, commodity, and museum - and compared these academically constructed frames of understanding with Karuk constructs, which focused on social memory.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1127060, Grant Number BCS-0852511, and Grant Number BCS-1424029.

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