Department Exhibition Gallery and Student Lounge Opens

Josh Zaffos

Two female students placing a skull cast for an exhibit
Students Diana Del Valle (left) and Nicole Wilson place a skull cast for the Anthropology and Geography exhibit gallery

This spring, the Department of Anthropology and Geography at Colorado State University opened a new public exhibit space and student lounge inside the Andrew G. Clark Building.  Students and professors curated and prepared materials from department collections of stone tools, cultural artifacts, skull and skeleton casts, and lab samples for the exhibit space, which includes four display cases and a series of illustrated posters with images and materials that represent the department’s four concentrations. A student alumna designed and illustrated the posters. 

“Having a place to highlight the discipline is so important,” said Jeannine Pedersen-Guzman, who oversaw the installation and leads the department’s Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies Undergraduate Certificate program and also serves as Archaeological Collections Coordinator. “The subjects of Anthropology and Geography are rarely taught outside of the university setting, so many students have never been exposed to the disciplines. For a student to walk by our display, to see artifacts, and learn about the discipline is exciting. Many people are visual learners and the ability to see examples of the type of work we do in the department is much more engaging than reading about it.” 

The four cases represent the department’s major concentrations:

  • Clovis and Folsom cultures’ stone tools and projectile points, dating back 12,000-plus years, found at sites around Colorado (Archaeology);  
  • A skull cast of Australopithecus boisei, a replica of the specimen found by paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey in Tanzania in 1959, believed to be a roughly 1.2- to 2.3-million-year-old hominin (Biological Anthropology); 
  • An Achali/Acali mask of the Afikpo Igbo people of Nigeria and a soasptone sculpture of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, via loans from the Department of Art and Art History (Cultural Anthropology); and  
  • Tree-ring “cookies” used by geographers and climatologists to measure precipitation, annual forest growth and other environmental changes (Geography). 

Nicole Wilson studies Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology and a minor in Art History and was one of the students who helped with the new exhibits.  

“What I really liked about being a part of this project was feeling like I was ‘showing off’ and representing my department,” Wilson said. “It was fun to be able to be a part of something that everyone would get to see.” 

Images of a fossil hominin skull cast, Folsom Culture projectile points, tree cookies, and Indigenous masks and art from Africa
The four exhibits representing the concentrations of Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Geography, and Cultural Anthropology

Through the installation project, Wilson and fellow student Diana Del Valle gained experience properly handling artifacts, designing mounts and cases, writing and designing labels, and even selecting room colors and design accents to create a warm and inviting space. “In terms of care for the viewer, my classes engraved into my head the importance of design in exhibits,” Wilson said. 

“One of the main goals of the Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies Certificate is to provide students with hands-on experience,” Pedersen-Guzman added, “so anytime I am working on a display or exhibit, I make it a priority to involve my students.” 

Elena Haverluk (ANTH, Archaeology, ’20) illustrated the gallery space’s posters, working from photographs of students and professors in labs and the field. Haverluk, who now works as a cultural-resources technician based in Fort Collins, uses digital drawing software and a group of reference photos to create detailed and vivid illustrated images through her artwork.   

Iterations of Elena Haverluk’s Geography poster (one of four she created working from photos of students and professors) show her design process. The posters are now on display in the department hallway lounge

“Being able to visually display the results of the research that anthropologists conduct is really beneficial for accurately conveying those findings to the general public,” Haverluk said. “Drawing can be a really simple way to convey complex ideas and to get people interested in something that would otherwise be too complicated or intimidating. Basically, drawing makes science look fun!” 

Pedersen-Guzman is excited for others to see the exhibits and to use the new lounge space – especially knowing how involved students were in its design and realization. “I believe that this display speaks to the amazing work and scholarship that flows from our department and fosters a sense of pride for our students,” she said.