Museum Anthropology Leaders: Steve Lekson, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder, Part 1

Exclusive Museum Anthropology Blog Interview with Steve Lekson, Curator of Archaeology and Professor of Anthropology, Univeristy of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder

This interview is the third installment in a our series, Museum Anthropology Leaders, where blog intern Lillia McEnaney will be interviewing various anthropological museum professionals. The first installment in the series was with Alaka Wali at the Field Museum, with the second being with Sheila Goff, based at History Colorado. 

This interview was conducted over written email correspondence. 

This is Part 1 of 2.

When in your education did you decide to pursue museum anthropology? Why?
Probably right after the BA, when I was running big CRM projects in Tennessee.  I didn't want to do that forever, I didn't want to be a professor, and a research curator pretty filled my requirements.

Could you provide the readers of the blog with a brief description of your day to day job at as the Curator of Anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History?
There are no two days that are the same.  In the last decade, LOTS of NAGPRA, a couple of big exhibits, a few major accessions, planning and grant writing for storage improvements, teaching classes, graduate students, (until last summer) almost every summer a field project, and a lot of university "business" -- endless committee work. 

Which project or exhibition that you worked on are you most proud of?
Hard to say.  Last big exhibit was "History of the Ancient Southwest", up for a year and very successful.  I was happy with it.

When I took this job, after about a half-year I saw four things that needed doing: (1) NAGPRA compliance (we were behind the curve); (2) rehousing our Southwest textiles; (2) rehabbing the Yellow Jacket collections -- our largest archaeological collection, but in a poor state of health; and (4) doing something with our remarkable collection of Southwestern pots which had not been on exhibit for as long as anyone could remember.  Got 'em all done except (2) and we're working on that right now!

What was the most challenging project or aspect of a project that you have worked on?
NAGPRA.  We have, after ten years, repatriated all of the HRs under our control, about 635 individuals.  We consulted with almost 100 tribes.  We had no NAGPRA staff and no budget.  It was a huge job and not a happy one.  I wrote about this in Museum Anthropology 33(2), 2010.

Do you have a favorite object in the University of Colorado collection?
Not one object.  We have a really rich collection.  The Mantle's Cave collection is pretty remarkable.

Part 2 coming soon!