January 23, 2022

Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Awarded $5 Million Mellon Foundation Grant to Catalog, Photograph, and Store its Full Collection in Anticipation of Move

From Brown University:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology a $5 million grant to catalog and prepare for the anticipated move of nearly 1 million ethnographic objects, archaeological specimens and images that illustrate and document human cultures and societies from across the globe.

The funds will enable the museum to create an accurate inventory of its diverse holdings, which are currently housed in Bristol, Rhode Island, in anticipation of a move to a to-be-determined future home near the University’s campus in Providence. The relocation would unite the museum’s collections in one city, boost public access to its collections and create new opportunities for scholarship in anthropology, Native American and indigenous studies and other academic disciplines at Brown.


The museum’s operations are currently divided between Bristol and Providence. The Bristol facilities, which include the Collections Research Center and the Circumpolar Laboratory, currently house most of the museum’s staff and collections — but the two buildings are nearly 80 years old, and according to Preucel, they were never intended to support the needs of a modern-day professional museum.

For decades, staff have worked to combat challenges such as climate control, inadequate storage space and poor conditions for public access to the collection.


As that process continues, the museum will use Mellon Foundation funds to formally catalog and store each object in preparation for potential relocation, hiring a team of professionals to assist. A photographer will document nearly 143,000 objects that haven’t yet been photographed, and collection assistants will help to establish an updated cataloging system. A conservator will protect and stabilize items to prepare them for a move. And a community engagement specialist will work with the region’s Native American and indigenous communities to bring their voices and expertise into the museum’s plans for the future.

Learn More About the Grant and the Museum’s Collection (approx. 1360 words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.