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DU Museum of Anthropology’s Participation in Nationwide Assessment Program Aims to Bolster Student Resource

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Jordyn Reiland

Content and Communications Manager

Jordyn Reiland

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An exhibit is shown at the Museum of Anthropology

DUMA’s Spring 2023 exhibit entitled "Laboring for Justice" is shown at the University of Denver's Museum of Anthropology in Sturm Hall. The exhibit featured artwork from the book “Laboring for Justice: The Fight Against Wage Theft in an American City by Dr. Rebecca Galemba of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Center for Immigration Policy and Research (CIPR) at the University of Denver. (Photo by Jordyn Reiland)

After being chosen to participate in a selective, nationwide assessment program, the University of Denver’s Museum of Anthropology (DUMA) hopes to use this opportunity to become an even greater resource to students.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) is the only professional organization representing the entire scope of the U.S. museum community. AAM’s mission “is to champion equitable and impactful museums by connecting people, fostering learning and community, and nurturing museum excellence.”

This year AAM selected 79 museums to participate in its 2023 Museum Assessment Program (MAP).

Participation in the program includes choosing from one of five institutional assessment types: Organizational, collections stewardship, education and interpretation, community and audience engagement, or board leadership.

The DUMA team chose the collections stewardship assessment, and the museum is currently in the self-assessment phase as part of the 2023 cohort, DUMA’s Curator of Collections Sarah Carlson said.

“It’s nice to be able to connect with a knowledgeable museum professional … See what's going well, see what could be done better. We hope that there'll be some growth opportunities out of it, as well as some networking and connecting with the museum community,” Carlson added.

DUMA’s extensive collection is focused on teaching and provides students, faculty and staff unique opportunities to interact with the collection more so than other museums.

Christina Kreps, director of DUMA and the museum and heritage studies concentration, likens it to a “training laboratory.”

“Students really do have an opportunity to come and work with collections without having to go through the added hurdles of contacting somebody outside of the university, trying to make that connection and then create a project around it,” Carlson said.

The program — which is mindful of diversity, equity, access and inclusion issues — helps museums look at both functional and strategic aspects of their operations, and present focused learning modules and action plans for the museum. It also includes a peer-reviewed site visit.

Since its inception in 1981, the assessment program has helped more than 5,000 small and mid-sized museums.

“It's a way to improve the operation of the museum and hopefully allow us to advocate for ourselves within the university with the input of an outside evaluator,” said Anne Amati, registrar and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) coordinator.

Other museums in Colorado participating in the program include the Colorado Northwestern Field Museum, the Molly Brown House Museum and the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. 

  • Students work with a collection during a class

    University of Denver students work with ceramic Mesa Verde pieces from the Museum of Anthropology collections during Dr. Bonnie Clark’s Objects, Texts, and Narratives course. (Photo by Wayne Armstrong)

  • A portion of the museum's collection is shown

    A collection of weapons and basketry from the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology collection. (Photo by Jordyn Reiland)

  • A portion of the Museum of Anthropology's collection is shown.

    A collection of blackware ceramics from Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Pueblos in New Mexico. (Photo by Jordyn Reiland)

  • A student examines an item during an Anthropology class

    A student examines a ceramic sherd from Mesa Verde during Bonnie Clark’s Artifacts, Text, and Narrative course. (Photo by Wayne Armstrong)

  • Professor Bonnie Clark measures an artifact during a class.

    Professor Bonnie Clark measures an Mesa Verde ceramic piece during her Artifacts, Text, and Narrative course. (Photo by Wayne Armstrong)

  • Masks from the DUMA collection are shown

    Various masks from the DUMA collection are shown. (Photo by Sarah Carlson)

  • An artifact from the museum's collection is shown.

    Barong and Rangda masks from Bali, Indonesia, as well as an Indonesian kris, and Hindu prayer beads featured in a student exhibition. (Photo by Sarah Carlson)

  • A visitor admires a past exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology.

    A visitor admires artwork by Johnny Nelson in the Icons of the Dine exhibition hosted at DUMA in 2019. (Photo by Sarah Carlson)

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