The Roles of Museums and Anthropology

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) is an anthropology museum. This puts the IMC at the center of two role advancements, one that is occurring in the museum industry and the other that is affecting anthropological study.

Cultural context educationWithin the industry of museums, there is a tide change from the traditional passive contemplation role that was very popular through the majority of the last century and the modern role of the museum to be an active participant in community and education. In Anthropology, there is an increased emphasis to apply the findings discovered in the field to the present culture and economic environment of the observer.

Museum 2.0

Regarding the advancing role of the museum in society, Nina Simon posted Participation, Contemplation, and the Complexity of “and” in Museum 2.0 “To me, the backlash against participatory and community-centered experiences is not surprising. I’ve always understood that participatory experiences are not for everyone. I’ve always known that some people feel that social work means mission creep for museums. What surprises me is the argument that participatory and community-centered initiatives, offered alongside many other interpretative strategies, program types, and projects, can erode the value of an institution and the experiences it provides.”

Museums are continuing to increase their role in communities and education by expanding beyond their brick and mortar. Museums are bringing their experiential abilities to the attendee rather than having the attendee physically enter the museum.

Anthropology Advancing

The traditional methods of anthropological study have been to visit far away cultures, report on them and then return to report on the findings. Many of us laymen have fond memories of watching documentaries depicting people living, in our context, within strange and exotic cultures. Anthropology is advancing its role in applying the findings to our contemporary world and our local cultural and economic environment.

The challenge is the acceptance of the fact that all of our perspectives are filtered through our respective traditions and culture. The advanced Anthropological studies understand the human condition of the observer and properly shares the observations in the proper context.

In a post call A Major Value of the Anthropological Project (as I see it), agamwell writes “Sharing our stories with others too, can be helpful, as long as we are able to also understand views as partial, as one among many, and as long as we allow the space for multiple stories, even if contradictory, to exist at the same time. While each of us might not be able to change the world, we can at least change ourselves.”

So museums and Anthropology are moving to expand their roles and, consequently, expand our understanding of the world. The International Museum of Cultures is moving along in step by being a true partner in education. The IMC ships genuine artifacts to educational organizations with related curricular and also offers an electronic field trip delivered to any Web enabled device, also accompanied with related curricular. The purpose is to bring the cultures of the world to our students, in the context of and to improve the student’s world.

Anthropology is in a Constant State of Learning

As Dave Wolf states in his blog post Anthropological Analysis of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (Happy Halloween!), “Reliability of informants is a big issue in anthropology; just look at Margaret Meade, who was accused of being duped by her informants in Papua New Guinea.  Several years after she did her field work, another anthropologist went to study the same people to see if her findings held up; they did not, indicating that the informants must have lied to at least one of the anthropologists and possibly both.  This is why it’s important not to rely solely on what informants tell you, but to confirm information with other sources and through participant observation.”

An example of changes in understanding is the new findings regarding Neanderthals. According to the k2p Blog post Neanderthal’s weren’t vegetarian – they just ate the stomachs of vegetarians, the Neanderthals, which were once thought to be ferocious carnivores. Then they were then thought to be vegetarians. The K2P Blog continues that now the belief is that the neanderthals actually were misunderstood as vegetarians “… from eating the stomachs of prey which in turn were vegetarian. Neanderthals were only vegetarian by proxy.”

The k2p blog sites a paper by Laura Buck and Chris Stringer and published in the latest edition of Quaternary Science ReviewsStringer argues that the tiny pieces of plant found in Neanderthal teeth could have come from a very different source. They may well have become embedded in the stomach contents of deer, bison and other herbivores that had then been hunted and eaten by Neanderthals.

Photo from Windows to the Universe. "This photograph, from around 1899, shows an Inuit summer hut."

Photo from Windows to the Universe. “This photograph, from around 1899, shows an Inuit summer hut.”

“Many hunter-gatherers, including the Inuit, Cree and Blackfeet, eat the stomach contents of animals such as deer because they are good source of vitamin C and trace elements,” said Stringer. “For example, among the Inuit, the stomach contents of an animal are considered a special delicacy with a consistency and a flavour that is not unlike cream cheese. At least that is what I am told.”

So, anthropology assisted archaeologists in their assessment. We can see that anthropologists and archaeologists are always learning. That is the where the excitement comes from.

Visit the International Museum of Cultures to experience that excitement and learn about world cultures.

How Native Australians Make a Didgeridoo

The Didgeridoo (Yirdaki)

The didgeridoo is thought to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, its usage dating back tens of thousands of years. The instrument itself is at the core of the historical, ceremonial, and cultural practices of the groups that use it.

Didgeridoo from the International Museum of Cultures

Although the didgeridoo has become a symbol of Australia Aboriginal culture throughout the world, it was originally only used by a few groups in the northeast part of Australia.

Some also call a Didgeridoo a Yirdaki. According to,“the yirdaki is merely a type of didjeridu, a form that is used by the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land. The yirdaki is quite different to other types of didjeridu because of its particular acoustic properties, though this in itself shows variance according to regional preferences and prescribed law among Yolngu clan groups.”

Its low, droning sound is thought to connect individuals with nature and the spirits of “Dreamtime,” or a time of the past when deities were involved in human affairs. Teachers also use the didgeridoo to imitate nature and animal sounds while teaching children about the world around them. Today, didgeridoos have gained worldwide appeal, but many feel like this is at the expense of their traditional sacredness. This didgeridoo, like the majority in the market today, has been produced for commercial purposes but is modeled after traditional designs.

Making a Didgeridoo by a Native Australian

To make these instruments the native Australians find a Eucalyptus which is partially hollowed out by termites. They remove a piece of bark and tap the tree to judge the sound before they begin cutting at the base of the tree. Once the tree is cut, and if the hollow inside it is the right dimension, the maker will then cut a 4-6 ft. long section of the tree. To ensure the wood does not crack, the log is cured, either by soaking in water for days or weeks, or by allowing it to completely dry out. All the bark is then stripped from the wood, and if necessary the walls are carved down to reduce the thickness, and sometimes the hollow of the log is better cleaned out as well. After this is complete, a mouthpiece is formed from beeswax, and the instrument is decorated, either with specific patterns for ceremonial use, or to the makers liking if for personal use.

You can learn more at the International Museum of Cultures  a unique anthropology museum. The museum is located in southwest Dallas County. However, the museum also provides transportable artifacts (Discovery Boxes) and an Electronic Field Trip for education on indigenous cultures from around the world.

Anthropology Museum Offers Ability to Adopt an Artifact of Indigenous Cultures

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC), a unique Anthropology museum in Dallas, allows the public to help preserve artifacts of indigenous cultures from around the world.

Pan Flute Solomon Islands

Flute Solomon Is

Gourd container from Peru IMC

Gourd container from Peru

Through “Adopting an Artifact,” a patron will become an advocate for ethnic and cultural diversity, thereby furthering the mutual respect and peace between peoples of this world. Adopting an artifact creates an emotional bond between the patron and the artifact, along with the culture of the artifact’s origin.

The IMC recognize the person, family, classroom, or even a business, that adopts an artifact by displaying a small plaque along with the QR code in the museum near their adopted artifact for others to see.

Adoption cost
$250 dollars (tax deductible)

Program Benefits:

  • Receive a limited 3 month membership
  • 15% discount to the gift shop
  • A certificate of adoption
  • A photograph of the artifact
  • Information about the artifact
  • A QR code for smart phones.

For more information, contact the International Museum of Cultures at or (972) 572-0462Adopt an Artifact International Museum of Cultures

The IMC was among the Sponsors of the SMU Living Village

The International Museum of Cultures (IMC) was among the sponsors of the SMU Living Village exhibit that opened in April. It was a walk through exhibit located on the Quad at Southern Methodist University.

IMC Outdoor Display at Southern Methodist University Living Village

IMC Outdoor Display at Southern Methodist University's Living Village

SMU used some of the museum’s items to create replicas of typical Bhutanese and Burundi refugee settlements.

As SMU’s The Daily Campus stated, the Living Village intends to showcase a variety of shelter technologies that displaced populations can utilize…

While primary needs like food, water and shelter are important, culture is often lost in refugee camps, which hurts the quality of life of refugees.

The SMU anthropology department, Lyle engineers, and members of the North Texas Burundi and Bhutan populations worked together to demonstrate how cultural sustainability could still be valued in economically strapped refugee camps.

Elementary Students Enjoy Visiting the Museum Without Leaving the School

A Cedar Hill Elementary school recently enjoyed a unique experience by visiting the International Museum of Cultures without leaving their school.Electronic Field Trip of the IMC

The Museum staff presented the “IMC Rocks!” video along with the enrichment components for the students.

The students were totally engaged in the Electronic Field Trip experience. This is consistent with the program results we have validating how schools are embracing this innovative and interactive learning method. This is especial critical in a time when funds are being reduced for educational field trips.

In this particular event, there were sixty-five 1st grade students in an auditorium. These students were shown the African and South American museum sections of the eField Trip. After the video was completed, the students were further engaged through the related curriculum for grades 1st through 3rd.

Electronic Field Trip

The Electronic Field Trip is entirely online and is designed as an interactive learning tool for students. Several different activities ensure that the students enjoy learning about others’ lives around the world without leaving the classroom.

The Virtual Field Trip includes:

  •  a series of videos delivered over the Web that provide an entertaining tour of different sections of the museum. The tour focuses on the Peoples of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico
  • curricula covering TEKS for K-12 science, social studies, English language arts, and math.

Contact the International Museum of Cultures for more details, or call 972-708-7406.

Educator’s Day at the International Museum of Cultures – January 21st

Educator’s Day at the International Museum of Cultures

As our young people grow up in a Global Society, it is believed that understanding and respecting other cultures will become increasingly more important to their individual success and the success of our own society as a whole.

IMC Rocks! from the International Museum of Cultures

We are a unique anthropology museum with anthropology-based educational programs that focus on teaching students to respect and understand other cultures. We have a variety of programs that can be easily integrated into your current curriculum (science, social studies, fine arts, English language arts, and math) and are fun and interactive for your students.

The International Museum of Cultures is hosting an Educator’s Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m on January 21, 2012. Educators are invited to come to the Museum and preview our educational programs, such as our Electronic Field Trip and Discovery Boxes with their respective curricula.

Join us and see what we have to offer you and your students. If you are unable to attend, do not hesitate to contact us. We can assist you in providing a successful Virtual Field Trip on world cultures without your students having to leave the classroom.