Museum offers glimpses of history
For a woman whose job often takes her into the past, Terri Castaneda
is looking into the future. The anthropology professor and museum
director is trying to improve the campus Anthropology Museum, making
it a fascinating and educational place for not only CSUS students
but for all of Northern California.
"I want to bring the community onto campus," she says.
The museum already draws several elementary schools, but Castaneda
says she wants to see more visitors.
The museum, open on the first floor of Mendocino Hall since the
University completed the building in 1990, owns several collections
including artifacts from the Pacific Islands and South America as
well as American Indian basketry and beadwork. There are usually
several anthropology students holding internships in the museum.
Three interns curated the most recent exhibit, "Sewing What
You Reap: An Ethnobotanical Exhibit Featuring California and Northwest
Coast Basketry" which closes this month. Castaneda says this
will be the last exhibit for the semester because there is an enormous
amount of time and work that goes into the creation of displays.
"You have to create a concept, design the drawings and then
build it," Castaneda says.
The museum consists of a workroom, collection facility and gallery.
The gallery is what the public would consider as the "museum,"
Castaneda says. That's the floor space designated for the displays
and it consists of 1,000 square feet. Castaneda says she wants to
create a more workable space. She and others have been toying with
the idea of creating some sort of courtyard or reception area immediately
outside the museum's doors. "You can refigure gallery space.
There are so many ways to reinvent the space," Castaneda says.
She says she would also like to invite traveling exhibits to the
University. Pooling resources with other CSU anthropology museums
is another option Castaneda has considered. The size of the exhibit
could be a hindrance, but Castaneda says sharing the collections
with the Robert Else and Library galleries is a possibility. Each
could take a specific angle of the exhibit, she says.
Castaneda has also observed the changes in museum design and has
worked to incorporate some of the trends. Museums were once artifact-driven.
Then, there was a trend toward dioramas - areas behind glass dipicting
some type of scene, such as such as miners panning for gold. Castaneda
says that after the diorama trend, "Museums moved to totally
immersive environments, placing the visitor right in the center
of say, the Kalahari."
Castaneda says that although museums are still somewhat in the immersive
trend, "There's a return to artifacts. There's also a new desire
to interact with past. Interactive exhibits are very popular,"
she says. "Sewing What You Reap," for example, allows
visitors to touch materials used for the baskets and to examine
pollen grains or plant fibers through a microscope.
The most important thing, Castaneda emphasizes, is that the exhibits
are of interest to students, faculty and the public.