Associate Professor of Anthropology • Director, Museum and Heritage Studies

Institutional Affiliation

University of Denver
Department of Anthropology


Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1994
M.A., International Studies, University of Oregon, 1988
B.A., Anthropology, Colorado College, 1981

Research Interests

Museum anthropology; international cultural policy; heritage

Regional and Thematic Interests

Southeast Asia; Transnational/Comparative
Cultural Studies


My research, teaching, and applied work crosses a number of disciplines and concerns, including anthropology, museology, art, international cultural policy and development. I have been studying the museum as a cultural phenomenon and cross-cultural approaches to museums, curation, and heritage preservation for nearly twenty years. (See "Liberating Culture: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation and Heritage Preservation," 2003) Recently, I have been examining the role of museums in promoting and protecting intangible cultural heritage. In 2005, I was awarded a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship through the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to explore how indigenous curation and concepts of heritage preservation are examples of intangible cultural heritage, and thus, eligible to be protected under the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage(see online article under "Theorizing Heritage"). Currently, I am exploring what I call "cultural humanitarianism," or the integration of cultural concerns into humanitarian aid and efforts. I am examining how cultural humnitarianism is being applied at the Museum Pusaka Nias, in the town of Genungsitoli on the island of Nias off the northwest coast of Sumatra. In March 2005, a 8.7. earthquake flattened much of Genungsitoli. Although severely damaged, much of the museum survived. Museum staff made an appeal for aid from the international museum community for reconstruction and the response has been remarkable. I'm looking at how culture is being conceptualized as a "basic need," and how emergency cultural aid is being conceptualized, managed, and reconciled with other "basic needs" for survival. In my teaching I foster a critical and comparative museology, coupled with reflexive practice. I see museum anthropology as applied anthropology. Museums are a venue for making anthropological insights and knowledge accessible and relevant to the public. Museums, as institutions of public culture, are a forum for exploring contemporary social issues and concerns. I emphasize the importance of civic engagement in our museum studies curriculum, on both local and global levels.

Selected Publications

2012. "Intangible Threads: Curating the Living Heritage of Dayak Ikat Weaving." In Touching the Intangible: Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, edited by Peter Davis, Gerard Corsane, and Michelle Stefano. Boydell & Brewer Ltd., in conjunction with the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies of Newcastle University.

2011. “Changing the Rules of the Road: Post-Colonialism and the New Ethics of Museum Anthropology.” In Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Museum Ethics in the 21st Century Museum, edited by Janet Marstine. London: Routledge.

2003. Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation, and  Heritage Preservation. London: Routledge.