SIMA Receives New NSF Funding

The Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) has been awarded a grant from the Cultural Anthropology Program of the National Science Foundation. It is the fourth round of funding that the NSF has provided to SIMA (with co-funding this time from the Documenting Endangered Language (DEL) program). SIMA began in 2009 and has run continually since then under the leadership of Candace Greene. With her retirement, Joshua Bell took over leadership of the program, which a 2018 editorial of Museum Anthropology, described as β€œan incomparable environment for rigorous training in museum methodologies at all levels of the field, promoting career advancement for emergent and established practitioners.”

Now entering its second decade, the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology (SIMA) is a research training program offered by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The program seeks to promote broader and more effective use of museum collections in anthropological research by providing a supplement to university training. SIMA will now be broadening the types of collections  data  examined  by  offering  lessons  on  how  to  effectively  work  with  audio,  art  works,  as  well  as  still  and  moving  images,  alongside  museum  artifacts. They will also be extending the methodological  reach  of SIMA by  teaching  students  about  Ancient  DNA  research,  ecological  understandings  of  artifacts  through  flora  and  fauna  analysis,  and  discussions  of  conservation  analysis.

Each summer SIMA supports 10-12 graduate students who want to use collections in their research and learn how to engage with materiality of collections more effectively. In addition, two fellowships are awarded to teaching faculty who are interested in learning how to incorporate museum collections into their teaching, and who would like to use SIMA as an opportunity to observe, learn, and share lesson planning. While the core of SIMA will not be changing, they are widening the scope of the teaching to actively include and think about archival and visual materials.

Using Smithsonian collections, experts, and visiting faculty, SIMA:

  • introduces students to the scope of museum collections and their potential as data
  • provides training in appropriate methods to collect and analyze material and visual data sources
  • makes participants aware of a range of theoretical issues relating to collections
  • positions students to apply their knowledge within their home university
  • advances pedagogical training and methods that helps reposition museum collections as critical data for anthropology

The curriculum, including both seminars and hands-on workshops, teaches students how to navigate museum systems, select methods to examine and analyze museum specimens, and recognize the wealth of theoretical issues that museum data can address.

SIMA will put out a call for applications for faculty fellows and students (application deadline March 1, 2019) shortly and begin posting details of the 2019 program in the coming months. SIMA will run from June 17 to July 12, 2019. For more information on SIMA visit: