Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Students get training and hands-on experience with collections

student handling artifacts

Kellen Hinrichsen places a piece of hide on a newly created mount

The University of Denver Museum of Anthropology received a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to organize some of its collections from the Franktown and Kenton Caves. Along the way, DU students will learn about museum curatorship. 

“We are a teaching museum and research institution,” says Brooke Rohde, curator of collections at the museum. “It’s a priority to make our collections active.”

DU anthropologists have studied the Franktown Caves in southeast Colorado and Kenton Caves in northwest Oklahoma for decades. The DU Museum of Anthropology houses more than 6,000 objects from both sites.

“The artifacts provide a rare and comprehensive view into the material culture and life of the people who created them,” Rohde says. Objects from Franktown Cave are more than 5,000 years old. Archaeologists speculate that people occupied the Kenton Caves from 1,000–8,000 years ago. 

The grant will pay to organize 640 objects from the two collections to make them more accessible. The items include sandals woven from yucca fibers and braided rabbit cords.

“Few archaeology collections contain as many organic artifacts as the Franktown Cave and Kenton Cave collections, which make these collections rare and in high demand for research,” Rohde says.

The grant allowed Rohde to bring in an objects conservator to train graduate students on mount-making and re-housing objects. Sophomore anthropology and museum studies majors Kathryn Young of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Kellen Hinrichsen, of Indiana, Penn., have been working with the collections.

“We learned how to best preserve the objects,” Young says. “We got to see how that’s practically adopted and put it in place here.”

Young and Hinrichsen hope to work in museums one day and say the training is valuable.

“There’s a complexity to working with such old, organic objects,” Hinrichsen says. “It’s good experience and it’s nice to know I can make a difference with the collections here.”

The students hope to have the project completed by June.


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