Anthropology in the Archive
Posted on November 5, 2010
Professor Ninian Stein's Archaeologies of Landscape had the opportunity to be landscape detectives and explore Wheaton College's changing environment through photographs, historic maps, paintings, deeds, diaries, wills, probate inventories, and Mrs. Wheaton's handsaw for cutting down trees.
Professor Donna Kerner's FYS "Magical Hair" explored Wheaton's eclectic collection of women's fashions through the ages, including hoop skirts, corsets, memorial jewelry made of human hair, and miniature silk shoes that dated from before the ban on foot binding in China. Learning to sit with a hoop skirt and bustle, trying to tie a corset with bones, and learning about what foot binding entailed made us stop and wonder why physical pain seems to be the cost of women's beauty.
Professor Gabriela Torres' Economic Anthropology explored two different currency collections in Wheaton's Archives and Special Collections: "Wheaton Currency" and Confederate Notes from the civil war era. Using the objects found in the Archives gave students in Economic Anthropology a sense not only of the particulars of our historical past, but also the underlying dynamics of cultural change that are concealed when we take for granted the standard currencies of today.
As the Spring 2010 issue of the Quartely shows, the Wheaton Archives and Special Collections are regularly used in Anthropology to think about cultural change.