Monday, October 13, 2014

Museum Anthropology Leaders: Steve Lekson, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, Part 2

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Steve Lekson, Curator of Archaeology and Professor of Anthropology, Univeristy of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder

This interview is the third installment in a our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. The first installment in the series was with Alaka Wali at the Field Museum, with the second being with Sheila Goff, based at History Colorado. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 2 of 2. 

Generally, what is your favorite thing about archaeology and museum anthropology?
Museum: I enjoy the weird old orphaned collections, trying to figure out what they are and where they came from and how on earth we got 'em.
Archaeology: Reconnaissance survey in new areas.  It's great to find big sites that no one knew about (except the cowboys and Indians).

Have you seen any major changes in our field over the past decade? If so, what are they?
I've gone from straight-up natural science museums, to Native American cultural centers/art museums, to a university museum that's split between high-end science research and cutting-edge museology.  That's a bit of change.  For Anthropology, of course, the inclusion of Native peoples has changed, for the better, completely in my 40 years.  Also, the explosion of digital media -- a huge difference from when I began and where we are today.  

Where do you see the field of museum anthropology going?
I think the pendulum may swing back, a bit, from post-colonial angst to substantive anthropology.  How many times can you say you're sorry?  The trick is to develop anthropology/archaeology questions and answers that are of genuine interest to Native Peoples.  That process will probably be collaborative -- but not necessarily.  I'm recently working on Southwest-Mesoamerica which is largely a straight archeology question.  Almost every Indian I've talked to is really interested in the topic and it's a happy thing we can talk about with mutual enthusiasm.  A lot more cheerful than NAGPRA.

As an author, archaeologist, and curator, how have you ‘changed’ your research to support these different venues of scholarship?
Except for gray literature reports and contract deliverables, I've always tried to write accessibly.  That hasn't always been easy; my academic colleagues and academic presses need a while to get used to it.

Do you have any advice or tips for our younger readers who are perhaps thinking about going into archaeology or museums?

Archaeology: think CRM; think practical field research; think project management and personnel skills.  Museums: learn everything, collections, education, exhibits, administration -- because there are far more small museums out there (where you'll wear several hats) than big museums with separate departments and specialized duties.  And most of those small museums are history museums, so learn historiography and costume/metal/paper/film collections management.  

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