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Which sub-field fits my career aspirations?


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I'm currently in my second to last semester of my undergrad. I've been sifting through grad school webpages trying to get an idea of where I want to go from here, and so far I've only made one decision: I definitely want to go for my PhD.

As far as a career goes, I know I want to work in a museum, preferably in a curatorial capacity. Ideally I'd like to work hands-on with artifacts as much as possible. I've been strongly considering a career in Forensic anthropology as well, but have recently decided that I would prefer to work in this field only as a supplement to my primary field of focus.

With that being said, which sub-field would be most beneficial? I have been bouncing back and forth between archaeology and physical anthropology. NYU is my dream school, and their master's program for human osteology sounds incredible. Their PhD. program for archaeology is amazing as well, with the added bonus of coming with a fellowship (if I'm accepted, of course).

Thoughts?

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I am assuming you want to work in an anthropology museum, yes? Be aware that most in the US museums have little to no human remains in their collection- NAGPRA put an end to that, also people are uncomfortable with the concept of death and just storing the dead. The only museum I can even think of off hand that has some in the permanent collection is the Museum of Man in San Diego and that's mummies.

I would recommend Arch just because more museums have a curator of archaeology or have some sort of archaeology collection.

Have you done any volunteer work with a museum? Experience helps a lot in the museums field (even with the terrible job market). Also, you should know (I don't know if you have taken any museum courses, if you college offers them- I'm trying to think of what schools in Texas offer MST and I'm only thinking of Baylor, Tech, and maybe UT?) that most objects sit in storage most of their life, there are four times they are really off the shelf. Cataloging (numbering, measuring, photographing), Research (in which case you still wouldn't be handling that much), Display, and Preservation/Conservation. So "hands-on" isn't all that hands-on as someone might think.

Edited by GreenePony
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After some digging, I did come up with a few that had other human remains (like the Mutter Museum), however they are still few and far between, making arch more useful than physical anthro as far as a job search would be concerned.

Edited by GreenePony
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Thanks for the response! That was kind of what I was expecting. I'm leaning towards archaeology now with all of the research I've done, because it just seems like it would offer me more career opportunities since it's a broader field than forensic anthropology. I don't have any museum experience yet, but my school has an archeological conservation society, so I'm going down there this week to talk to them about volunteer/employment opportunities. Thanks again!

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I would say there are a lot of opportunities for physical anthropology in museum settings. Most of my research has been within human skeletal collections that are held in museums. For instance, there are quite a few collections at the Smithsonian, Field Museum in Chicago, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at University of Pennsylvania, and at the British Museum. A lot of universities also have osteological collections. I think the limiting factor would be your research interests, not a shortage of collections.

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