MOA Introduces New Summer Programming

The Museum of Anthropology staff is pleased to announce a new types of programming centered on global cultures this summer.  In place of summer camp, the Museum will offer four Pre-K programs and four teen programs on Mondays and two all-ages workshops on Sundays in June and July, each exploring a different topic.   The staff is excited about the opportunity to provide more diverse programming and reach broader audiences.  Complete details on the Museum’s summer schedule of programs can be found here or on our events calendar.

Artists Find Inspiration in MOA Collections

The Museum of Anthropology’s collections of nearly 30,000 objects provide an outstanding resource for people, both in the Wake Forest community and the general public, interested in investigating any number of cultures through ethnographic and archaeological artifacts. Research in the collections has been increasing recently with a 2016 anthropology honors thesis about one of our Yu’pik belts and a number of recent exhibits featuring Wake Forest student research on individual objects. The MOA collections, however, can also serve as inspiration for artists in their own work and in the revival of traditional crafts.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

One such project came from a collaboration with Leigh Ann Hallberg, a faculty member in the Wake Forest University Department of Art. This past fall, students in Hallberg’s Intermediate and Advanced Drawing classes used objects from the Museum’s collections as inspiration for their works of art. The students selected objects including a Japanese kimono, a Tibetan horse bridle, an African rat trap, and a mask from Papua New Guinea as models for their charcoal drawings. The art was later displayed at Wake Forest’s START Gallery in Reynolda Village, showcasing this special partnership.

The MOA staff has also worked with metalsmith William Rogers, who specializes in reproducing historic hammered copper.  As part of an effort to revive metalworking among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Rogers collaborated with the Cherokee Historical Society on a project to add metalworking to the demonstration offerings of the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living history museum. The site is a re-creation of a typical village in the 1750s, with members of the Eastern Band as interpreters demonstrating a variety of traditional activities and crafts.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection. BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection.
BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

Rogers first focused on research to determine what types of metalwork were done by Cherokee people.  It was during this phase that he visited the Museum of Anthropology to examine NC Native American copper artifacts in our collection. Rogers also visited several other museums and together these prehistoric and historic copper pieces provided the inspiration for Cherokee designs that are being taught to the demonstrators, reproduced, and sold in the Village gift shop.  Thanks to the opportunity to study MOA’s artifacts, Rogers’ project ensured that the revival of this traditional Cherokee craft is authentic and produces interesting and beautiful pieces. Rogers will present a workshop teaching these methods of creating copper designs at the Museum of Anthropology on October 9, 2017.


The Museum is proud to be able to offer these opportunities to inspire artists and provide examples of authentic artifacts. At any given time only approximately one percent of the Museum’s entire collection is on exhibit. So, for those interested in exploring it in depth, the collection is showcased in the MOA’s comprehensive online database, providing an easily accessible introduction point. The Museum is also in the process of hiring a collections manager, which will make the collections even more accessible to researchers, artists, and any other interested parties.


MOA Highlights Gullah Art and Culture

This fall, the Museum of Anthropology presents a unique collaboration in the form of a new exhibit: Visions of Home: A Celebration of Gullah Art and Culture, which will be on display August 30, 2016 through April 22, 2017.

Home has personal significance and meaning.  The idea of home can encompass leaving, losing, finding, making, enjoying, remembering.  Home may be a journey, a place, an object, a landscape, people, creatures, a hope, a memory, and more.  Through the contemporary art and ethnographic artifacts featured in the exhibit, home is envisioned as a patchwork of places, histories, and identities by the Gullah people of the southeastern Atlantic coast.  The exhibit features original works by Sea Islands artists from the Red Piano Too Gallery, as well as works by Wake Forest University Assistant Professor Katherine Ziff, and objects from the Museum of Anthropology’s collection.

Dandylion Gillins webx

Dandylion, Cassandra Gillins

The Red Piano Too Art Gallery, located adjacent to the historic Penn Center of St. Helena Island, South Carolina, represents an eclectic and unique collection of Southern artists, particularly those who call the Sea Islands home. The artists submitted 57 pieces of two- and three-dimensional works in response to a call for art from the Museum this spring.  In June, the Museum staff traveled to St. Helena Island to collect the loaned art, meet gallery owner Mary Inabinett Mack, and experience the landscape firsthand.


Bisimbi, Katherine Ziff

Bisimbi, Katherine Ziff

The Red Piano Too artists’ work is shown within the context of arts-based research by WFU Department of Counseling Assistant Professor Katherine Ziff that reflects upon the traumatic experience of enslaved Africans.  In the New World, they found a way, through a religious and cultural affinity with nature (in the form of water spirits known as the simbi), to creatively embody home in the Lowcountry of the Carolinas.  The exhibit features five of Katherine’s original prints.  These contemporary works are paired with a selection of Central and West African objects from the Museum of Anthropology’s permanent collection.

The MOA will present programing related to the exhibit throughout its run beginning with a reception for MOA Friends on September 30.  A panel discussion is scheduled for November 9, at which scholars will elaborate on the themes of the exhibit and offer their personal reflections.  During the spring semester, the Museum will host a screening of Daughters of the Dust, a 1991 Sundance Festival award-winning film about Gullah life in the Sea Islands, an academic lecture, and a family-friendly workshop.  Additional details about these events will be coming soon.

New Artifact Database Now Online

We are excited to announce that our online artifact database is now easier to search than ever.  With the help of new software from PastPerfect, you can now access our complete artifact collection with this address or through the link under the Research & Collections tab.  Take a minute to explore our amazing collections!

WFU Honors Thesis Examines MOA Artifact

The Museum of Anthropology staff is excited to have new information about one of its artifacts thanks to the hard work of a Wake Forest student. This spring, senior Anthropology major Shannon O’Hanlon completed her honors thesis researching one of three Alaskan Yup’ik caribou teeth belt in the MOA’s ethnographic collection. Shannon developed an interest in the Museum, and the Yup’ik collection specifically, during a 2014 internship in which she worked to research, develop, and install The Yup’ik Way of Life: An Alaskan People in Transition, a unique exhibit that combined Yup’ik artifacts from the MOA with loaned photographs depicting Yup’ik life in the late 20th century.

The belt Shannon studied is part of the Museum’s Wachovia Historical Society collection and was originally collected by Moravian missionary John Kilbuck and his wife Edith in the late 19th century. The Yup’ik no longer produce this type of belt, but at that time they were worn by women and used in healing rituals. The caribou teeth were believed to chew or cut the sickness out of an ailing person.

Belt xray web

The belt was x-rayed in a local dentist’s office.

As a part of her research, Shannon worked with local dentist and Wake Forest alumnus, Dr. Philip Golden (‘72), who provided the equipment to take x-rays of the teeth. There are 247 sets of teeth on the belt, for a total of nearly 2,000 individual teeth. All of the surprisingly small teeth are lower incisors, as caribou do not have upper incisors, only a hard bony plate that the lower teeth strike against.

Shannon’s analysis of the belt offers new insights regarding Yup’ik cultural values and material traditions, as well as bio-ecological aspects of Yup’ik hunting practices and their changes over time. Her work demonstrates that the belt is indicative of links between historical Yup’ik practices, caribou herd dynamics, and present-day Yup’ik concerns. Shannon found that the caribou represented in the belt were much healthier than those studied by modern researchers, despite Yup’ik hunting practices remaining largely the same. This suggests that hunting is not the driving factor in poor herd health. Poor herd health in modern populations is more likely due to larger environmental issues such as climate change and industrial development. Shannon’s research also examined the important role anthropology museums can play in preserving traces of bio-ecological systems through the conservation of material culture.

Shannon poses with the belt after successfully defending her thesis.

Shannon poses with the belt after successfully defending her thesis.


Summer Camp Registration is Open!

The MOA is very excited to announce that registration is now open for two 2016 summer programs focusing on the people and traditions of West Africa.

The Museum will offer two one-week sessions of “Cultures Up Close: West Africa: July 11-15 and July 25-29.  Using music, art, stories, games, and other activities, campers will learn about the diverse cultures and traditions of West Africa.  This half-day camp is designed for children ages 6 to 12.  The fee is $125 ($100 for MOA Friends) for a one week session, which includes all supplies and daily refreshments. Each session is limited to 15 children.

The Museum will also offer a one-day workshop for teens, ages 12 to 16.  “Talking Textiles” will take place on Monday, July 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  The symbols and patterns used to create West African cloths have meanings, tell stories, and represent the wearer. Looking at different types of West African textiles, teens will learn how they are created and the what the symbols and patterns mean. After viewing Adrinkra and Adire cloths from the Museum’s collection, participants will create their own Adrinkra and Adire inspired works. The fee is $45 ($30 for MOA Friends), which includes all supplies and a snack.  The workshop is limited to 10 participants.

Download the registration forms for both programs here!