Sara Cromwell

MOA Welcomes New Academic Director


With the beginning of the fall semester at Wake Forest University, the Museum of Anthropology is very excited to welcome Dr. Andrew Gurstelle as academic director.  Andrew is an anthropologist interested in the history and archaeology of West Africa.  This interest intersects with museums and heritage in the Atlantic African diaspora, and how African peoples and objects are represented in museums throughout the world. In particular, his research explores how partnerships between international and community museums might be the key to safeguarding African cultural landscapes.

Since 2011, Andrew has been the Director of the Savè Hills Archaeological Research Project—an archaeology and oral-history project investigating the Shabe Yoruba kingdom in the Republic of Benin.  Over the course of the project, interest in the research’s findings grew into a collaborative effort between archaeologists, local historians, and school teachers. The project culminated in an exhibition of archaeological findings as part of the 2015 Shabe Cultural Festival. Andrew has also conducted archaeological research in Ghana, Togo, and the Midwest United States.

Before joining the Museum of Anthropology, Andrew also worked on museum exhibitions at the University of Michigan including several on African art, undocumented migration between Mexico and the US, and the history of the Peace Corps.  His curatorial work merges with his other research projects, where he has conducted extensive research on West and Central African ritual objects found in museums throughout the world. Andrew received his PhD and MA in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, and his BA in Anthropology and African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He recently moved to Winston-Salem with his wife, Sarah, and son, Asher.

With Andrew’s arrival, the Museum of Anthropology enters a new era in its mission of fostering awareness and understanding of global cultures. Andrew looks forward to building on the Museum’s legacy with new exhibitions and programs that highlight the diversity and dynamism of the peoples represented in the collections. At the same time, Andrew is committed to Wake Forest University’s “teacher-scholar ideal.” His vision for the future includes promoting the Museum’s potential as a resource for anthropological research. “Engaging students, faculty, and community members in collaborative museum research will both enrich our understanding of the world and provide experiences that museum visitors will take with them for the rest of their lives,” explained Andrew.

The Museum of Anthropology thanks all of its campus, community, and alumni partners for their continued support. There are many exciting plans for the future. The Museum will continue to grow and offer new opportunities for learning, exploration, and wonder. We look forward to you joining us!


It’s Time for Day of the Dead!

The Museum of Anthropology’s annual exhibit, Life After Death: The Day of the Dead in Mexico, will be on exhibit this year from September 15 to December 11. As Day of the Dead imagery becomes more and more prevalent in Halloween decorations and costumes in the United States, this bilingual exhibit provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the cultural significance, history, and folk art associated with the unique celebration.

As always, the centerpiece of the exhibit is a traditional Mexican ofrenda, an altar with food and beverage offerings, flowers, candles, sugar skulls, and photos of deceased family members. The exhibit also includes a children’s ofrenda with toys and snacks, a wide selection of Day of the Dead folk art, and a photo essay illustrating the celebration in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. The Museum welcomes patrons to contribute to the exhibit by placing photos of deceased family and friends on the altar. The exhibit presents text in English and Spanish.

For the second year, the Museum will present a Day of the Dead Excursion in partnership with the Hispanic League and Sawtooth School for Visual Art. The event will be held on Saturday, October 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The program will include a presentation and in-depth guided tour of the Life After Death exhibit at the MOA, an authentic Mexican lunch, and a Day of the Dead mask-making workshop at the Sawtooth School with veteran mask maker Martina Moore. Participants will have the option of displaying their masks in the Museum for the remainder of the exhibit. The excursion is open to ages 14 and over. Visit for information and to register. We hope to see you this fall!

Brass Leopards

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Large brass statues, such as these leopards, were owned by royalty in the Bamun (also spelled Bamum) kingdom, located in the Grasslands of Cameroon.  Brass leopards enhanced the prestige of the king, known as the Fon, as it was his privilege to use images of leopards to mark his position. Depictions of leopards also appear in beaded art, thrones, stools, and other royal objects.  Wealth was also indicated by the possession of live leopards kept in the king’s compound.  Bamun society is very hierarchical and is organized around the Fon, making the markers of his superiority very prominent.  Today, these leopards mark the entrance to our summer exhibit, MOA’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

MOA Presents Cabinet of Curiosities

This exhibit has been extended through December 11!

This summer’s featured exhibit, MOA’s Cabinet of Curiosities,  evokes the setting of an original cabinet of curiosities, a privately held collections of exotic and extraordinary objects.   These collections, also known as wunderkammern, or wonder rooms, first appeared in mid-sixteenth century Europe and can be seen as the precursors to modern museums. They often included objects related to many different disciplines, including fine art, natural history, and anthropology. The MOA’s exhibit features a wide range of ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, showcasing the diversity of the Museum’s permanent collection, while providing detailed information on the objects and cultures.


MOA student employee Lindsay Gilliland and Interim Assistant Director Sara Cromwell examine a crocodile fetish from Papua New Guinea in MOA’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

MOA’s Cabinet of Curiosities was curated by student employees Lindsay Gilliland, Irene Kim, Madeline Stone, and Olivia Whitener, along with Salem College intern Kerri Howell under the direction of Interim Assistant Director Sara Cromwell and Museum Educator Tina Smith. The students visited the MOA’s collections storage to select objects that they thought were the most interesting. They then conducted research and wrote label text that was compiled into an exhibit guidebook. The project provided the students with real world experience and insight into the many steps of creating an exhibit. Lindsay Gilliland called the experience “by far one of the most interesting things I’ve done at Wake Forest.”

With objects ranging from life-sized brass leopards to Aboriginal dot paintings, from an Egyptian mummy casing to a necklace of human teeth, and from Amazonian poison darts to Kachina dolls, the exhibit is sure to inspire curiosity about peoples and cultures around the world.



Palestinian Drum

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This type of Middle Eastern goblet drum is used across the region and is referred to by many names: tabla/tablah, darbouka/darboukah/darbukkah/derbouka, or tombek/doumbek. This example is Palestinian and was made in Jordan in the 20th century. The body of the drum is wheel-thrown glazed ceramic with a stretched animal hide creating the drum head. A piece of plastic twine is used to attached the hide and tighten it as needed. In general, this style of drum is held under one arm or laid on its side over one leg to be played. This example is made in the Egyptian style, which means that it has rounded edges on the head, as compared to the Turkish style which has a raised rim. The different designs allow for slight variations in the playing technique.

This drum was made to be used in wedding ceremonies. The glaze shows hand prints and the Arabic word “Mabruk,” which means congratulations, especially in the context of a wedding. The drum is used as accompaniment to dabke, a folk circle dance that is traditionally performed at Arabic weddings and other joyous occasions.

MOA Featured on 600 AM WSJS

Earlier this week, the Museum was featured on the 12 o’clock news on 600 AM WSJS, a local talk radio station.  Interim Assistant Director Sara Cromwell was interviewed about our two featured exhibits, Understanding Our Past, Shaping Our Future and At Home on the Plains.  In case you missed it, you can listen to the audio below.