“Jane” Image via Don Hulbert, Smithsonian Institution

Reconstructing The Past: Studio EIS (A Docu-Portrait)

Originally published on Anthropology News

Everyday Anthropology
Myeashea Alexander

Almost every weekend for over a year, I left NYC on a 6:30 am southbound bus to Washington, DC. When I arrived, I would quickly grab breakfast from Union Station and enjoy the walk to the National Museum of Natural History. I was volunteering for a forensic anthropology exhibit based on the Jamestown excavations called, “Written In Bone”.

Every day, hundreds of visitors from all around the world, would file into the small lab set up at the end of the walkthrough exhibit, and my coworkers and I would engage them in forensic techniques, culture, history, anthropology and some hands-on learning time with human remains.

But before those visitors entered the lab, they wandered back in time to 17th century Jamestown. They gazed at the once smoked pipes, early medical instruments, and marveled at the hardships that were indelibly etched in their bones. As the artifacts helped visitors imagine a life that once existed in an area not too far away from where they stood, beautifully molded and reconstructed models allowed the present to come face to face with some of the people who’s lives were now on display.

Moved by the fantastic realism of these models, one weekend after my shift, I sat down at my computer to learn more about how these sculptures that allowed the public to dynamically participate in the narrative of 17th century Jamestown came to exist. I learned that they, too, had made a journey from Brooklyn to Washington, DC via Studio EIS.

This video is a portrait of my visit to the sculpture studio that has been a part of the nation’s cultural and public landscapes for almost 40 years.

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