New Permanent Exhibit Highlights Cultural Diversity in Africa

Ngaady webThe Museum has opened a new long-term exhibit entitled A Glimpse of Africa: Five Cultures from the Continent, which explores the remarkable amount of cultural diversity found in Africa by providing an in-depth examination of five ethnic groups: the Bamileke of Cameroon, the Baule of Cote d’Ivoire, the Kuba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Tuareg of the western Sahara, and the Zulu of South Africa.

Although American popular culture often portrays Africa as a homogeneous entity, it is home to at least 3,000 distinct ethnic groups.  Two thousand recognized languages, representing more than 25% of all languages in the world, are spoken on the continent.  Additionally, Africans are more genetically diverse than the inhabitants of the rest of the world combined.  The five cultures featured in the exhibit showcase this diversity.

The artifacts on display include ceramics, textiles, baskets, masks, weapons, personal adornment, and other objects from daily life.  Although the artifacts vary in age, they largely focus on “traditional” ways of life.  However, several pieces provide insight as to how tradition can be transformed through internal and external influences.

The exhibit was curated by the Museum’s student employees with staff supervision.  Wake Forest students Austin Brown (junior philosophy major), Chris Rinker (second year Divinity School student), and Olivia Whitener (junior Anthropology major) each created an overview of their chosen ethnic groups, selected and researched artifacts from the MOA’s extensive African collections, and composed exhibit text.  As a summer employee, Chris Rinker also provided invaluable assistance installing the exhibit.

MOA Participates in Blue Star Museums for Second Year


The Museum of Anthropology is pleased to announce the second year of its participation in Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America offering free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014.  Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families.  The program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their new communities after a military move.  The complete list of participating museums is available at

“Although the Museum of Anthropology will continue to offer free admission to all visitors, we are excited to be able to participate in this program honoring our military personnel and thanking them for their service and sacrifice,” said Interim Assistant Director Sara Cromwell.

“Blue Star Museums has grown into a nationally recognized program that service members and their families look forward to each year,” said Blue Star Families Chief Executive Offices Kathy Roth-Douquet.  “It helps bring our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns.  We are thrilled with the continues growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers.”

This year, more than 2,000 (and counting) museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa are taking part in the initiative.

MOA Director Leaving for New Post

SteveExhibitWebDr. Stephen L. Whittington has tendered his resignation as Director of the Museum of Anthropology, effective February 28.  He will become Executive Director of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado, in March.

The Museum’s staff and students have accomplished many things under Whittington’s leadership over the past 12 years including the following highlights:

  • National, regional, and state award-winning publications, exhibits, website, and collections preservation efforts.
  • More than $400,000 in grants from agencies and foundations, including three from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and two from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Digital access to everything in the collections through the Online Artifact and Archives Databases.
  • Vibrant and popular K-12 educational programs that successfully weathered “No Child Left Behind” and changes to the North Carolina Standard Course of Study.
  • Collections cataloged and inventoried in a safe and secure storage facility.
  • Up-to-date governing documents, including a collections plan, disaster response plan, and statement of ethics.
  • Improved quality and scope of collections through acquisitions, especially the MAW, Rilling, Lam, Salgo, and Wachovia Historical Society donations.
  • Collaborations with Delta Arts Center, Guilford Native American Art Gallery, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, St. Bonaventure University, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District, and Wake Forest departments and offices.
  • Culturally diverse and increasingly empowered Advisory Board.

Regarding his departure, Whittington said, “I want to thank the members of the MOA Advisory Board and MOA Friends for their encouragement and support and Wake Forest University for providing the collections with a safe and secure off-site curation facility.  I particularly want to acknowledge my hard-working and dedicated staff through the years, Beverlye Hancock, Myrna Mackin, Kim Robertson, Anne Gilmore, Sara Cromwell, Kyle Bryner, and Tina Smith, as well as numerous student employees and interns, without whom none of these accomplishments would have been possible.”

Following Whittington’s departure, an interim leadership team will take over his duties.  Sara Cromwell will serve as interim assistant director with responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the Museum, and Dr. Steven Folmar, assistant professor in the anthropology department, will serve as interim academic director.

Graves Lecture Video Now Available


Dr. Joseph L. Graves Jr. visited Wake Forest University to present “Evolutionary Versus Racial Medicine: Why It Matters” on February 6, 2014.

Dr. Graves is the Associate Dean for Research at the Joint School of Nanoscience & Nanoengineering, North Carolina A&T University and UNC Greensboro.  He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section G: Biological Sciences and was named to the National Science Foundation’s Sensational Sixty in 2013.  He has published over sixty papers and book chapters and appeared in six documentary films and numerous television interviews.

In his presentation, Dr. Graves discussed the biological and social definitions of race.  He explained how these concepts differ and why conflating the two has had disastrous consequences for biomedical research and clinical practice.  Graves will also discuss why understanding basic evolutionary mechanisms are indispensable for comprehending human biological variation and how these in turn may be applied to addressing ongoing health disparities.

A video of this lecture is now available here.

This event was sponsored by the Wake Forest Museum of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Department of Biology, Department of Sociology, American Ethnic Studies Program, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society, Institute for Public Engagement, and Humanities Institute.

MOA Receives NEH Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently selected the Museum of Anthropology as a grantees.  The Museum was one of only three institutions in North Carolina chosen to receive funding for 2013.  The NEH awarded the MOA a grant of $5,022 for wall mounted art storage screens.  Registrar and Collections Manager Kyle Bryner developed the project in order to complete the final stages of rehousing the permanent collection in the Museum’s offsite storage facility.  The screens will provide a storage solution for the collection’s oversize weaponry, including arrows, bows, spears, harpoons, and staffs, as well as other tools and weapons too large to fit on compact storage shelves.  The screens will also allow for proper storage of large framed objects such as two Comanche painted hides and a framed collection of North Carolina projectile points.  The grant is part of $14.6 million awarded by the NEH to 202 projects in 43 states and the District of Columbia.


Conservation Fundraising Focuses on Yoruba Object

House of the HeadBGnewsIn November, the Museum launched its annual campaign to support the “Save Our Hide” Conservation Fund.  This account allows tax-deductible donations to be set aside to restore important artifacts to their former glory so they can be placed on exhibit, furthering the Museum’s mission to provide opportunities for intercultural learning.  This year, the Museum staff selected a Yoruba object from Nigeria known as a house of the head, or ile ori, as the focus of the fundraising drive.  The Yoruba believe that the head is the seat of a life force that determines a person’s essential nature and destiny.  The house of the head shrine is designed to contain a person’s inner spiritual essence.  It is the center of rituals and offerings to ensure good fortune and an ideal fate.  The Museum’s house of the head is made of cloth embellished with colored glass beads.  Due to its condition, it must be stabilized before it can be exhibited for the first time.  The help of our patrons is essential to completing the conservation of this artifact.  Please contact Sara Cromwell at or 336.758.5282 if you are interested in providing financial assistance for this important project.