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Wake Forest University's Anthropology Museum to unveil online database of entire collection

September 9, 2008

From 10,000-year-old American Indian tools and weapons to 20th century African masks, more than 26,000 artifacts in the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology’s collections will be accessible online in a searchable database.

Beginning Sept. 9, the public will be able to search the online database,, and find a photograph and description of each object, including information about where it was collected. 

The collection includes Japanese kimonos, thousand-year-old Egyptian coins, 19th century Inuit dolls, pre-Columbian earthenware pots, and a vast array of other artifacts from cultures around the world.  

Ancient and contemporary textiles, jewelry, tools and weapons are cataloged. 

Nearly 50 artifacts connected to the Cherokee culture including baskets, ceremonial pipes, jewelry, ceramics and a range of other objects can be found in the database.   Thousands of American Indian projectile points, most of them found in North Carolina, have also been cataloged.

The oldest artifact in the collection dates to 10,000 B.C.

Archaeology and anthropology enthusiasts can search by country to find objects from a particular geographic area or by culture, such as the Hopi, to find all objects in the collection associated with that culture.  People can also search for a type of artifact.  For example, by entering “basket” as a search term, someone could find records for more than 150 baskets in the collection.

Anyone can use the database, but the database will be particularly valuable for North Carolina teachers, said Stephen Whittington, director of the museum.

Teachers can use images and the descriptions from the database to plan lessons and students can use the archive as a tool to research cultures around the world. 

Tina Smith, the museum educator, and Kyle Bryner, the museum registrar and collections manager, conducted workshops for area teachers this summer to demonstrate ways it could be used in the classroom and Smith is developing Web-based lesson plans using the collections that will also be posted on the anthropology museum’s Web site.

Wake Forest University students, staff and professors can also use the database for in-depth research into traditional arts and cultures for their courses. “We anticipate that this resource has potential to contribute to Wake Forest’s international reputation while expanding teaching and scholarly research in exciting new directions,” Whittington said.

The collections database was funded by more than $200,000 in federal grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).   The project, which took more than three years to complete, was led by Bryner.  Wake Forest students helped take photographs, edit images, inventory objects and update records.  A new computerized data management program allowed the museum to catalog its archaeological and ethnographic artifacts and provide the public with Internet access to the museum’s entire collection.  With the help of another recently awarded IMLS grant, the museum will add archival records such as photographs and maps to help users better understand the cultural and environmental contexts of objects found in the online database.

“The online database is not a static project,” Bryner said.  “As we obtain new objects, those objects and their associated information will be added to the database.  We hope to add more sections to the database such as interactive features, film clips and audio files.”

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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