Student project explores health and wellness through historical artifacts – UB Now: News and views for UB professor and staff

UB’s anthropology and museum studies students, inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, spent the spring semester exploring themes of health and wellness through a diverse collection of artefacts from the UB art galleries and libraries.

Their work, “Discussing Health and Wellness Virtually,” can be viewed on the UB Art Galleries website.

The virtual exhibit by students of the Combined Anthropology of Museum Studies course and the Interdisciplinary Masters in Critical Museum Studies program features a selection of objects from the Cravens Collection and the Edgar R. McGuire Historical Medical Instrument Collection.

The Cravens Collection, housed in the UB Anderson Gallery, includes over 1,100 artefacts from around the world and represents 10,000 years of human achievement; the Edgar R. McGuire Historical Medical Instrument Collection, housed in the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection at the Abbott Library, contains over 150 medical instruments spanning the Classical period through the 19th century.

Student research explored various concepts of health, wellness, and disease across a diverse group of archaeological and historical objects dating from the late Roman period to the early 20th century and spanning Africa, the Americas. and Europe.

The pandemic inspired students’ choice of health and wellness as a research topic, says Emily Reynolds, marketing and communications manager for UB Art Galleries. And since they had conducted their research virtually, they also decided to present their work in a digital format, rather than through a standard physical exhibition, adds Reynolds.

Among the objects examined by the students were containers for medicine, including a gourd, a miniature flask, a zoomorphic figure, and a leech jar; surgical tools for daily living and emergency procedures, including a set of three Roman instruments and a George Tiemann & Co. surgical kit; items used to seek fertility and agricultural abundance, such as a Legba fetish and an Iagalagana figure; and protective or good energy articles, including a container with a lid. Collectively, the objects tell stories of how humans sought to heal and protect themselves and ensure the same for their offspring through ingenuity, ingenuity, and spiritual exploration.

The project was led by Peter Biehl, professor of anthropology and associate dean for international education and enrollment at the College of Arts and Sciences, and organized by Ashley Cercone, graduate assistant to the Cravens Collection and doctoral candidate in the department of ‘anthropology. The student curators of the Critical Museum Studies program at UB are Joshua Albanese,

Jordan Anthony, Alek Brusgul, Andy D’Agostino, Soli Foster Lopez, Nina Grenga, Mary Himes, Fiona Jones, Devon Marr, Amy Ressler and Olivia Trometer. UB Art Galleries Director Robert Scalise, Exhibitions Curator Liz Park, Marketing Director Emily Reynolds and Registrar Nicholas Ostness served as advisers on the project.


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