Anthropology museum gets full-time director

By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs



Douglas Sharon, new director of the Hearst Museum of Anthropology
Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Man

30 October 2002 | Research anthropologist and museum executive Douglas Sharon will become the first full-time director of the campus’s Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Sharon, executive director for 21 years of the San Diego Museum of Man, will officially assume leadership of the 101-year-old museum and its vast collections in January.

Sharon is credited with transforming the San Diego facility through major renovations, dramatic changes in funding sources, and the creation of state-of-the-art exhibits. In the processs, the number of visitors to the museum increased to 250,000 a year. Sharon also doubled collection storage, added a 16,000-square-foot education and design center, and oversaw the renovation of expanded exhibits.

“Doug’s strengths in program development, facility planning, outreach, and fundraising are essential in the leadership of the Hearst at this critical juncture in its history,” says Robert Price, Berkeley’s associate vice chancellor for Research, who chaired the search committee that recommended Sharon.

Home to the largest anthropological collections in the United States west of the Mississippi, the Hearst, located in Kroeber Hall, boasts more than 3.8 million objects from early California and other portions of North America, and from ancient Egypt, Africa, Oceania and Peru.

But for all its prestige, the Hearst, like many public and private museums, has long suffered from insufficient space and funding. Previous directors have juggled museum duties with the rigors of teaching and field research.

“For the first time in its 100-plus-year history, the Hearst Museum will have a full-time director at the helm,” says anthropology professor Patrick V. Kirch, the Hearst’s outgoing director. “This is a key element in the ‘Vision for Transformation’ plan that my staff and I worked hard to develop over the past four years.”

Sharon is already making plans. “My first step will be to make what we’ve got work better,” he says. “I want to get the museum in the public eye, and the best way to do that is public education and outreach.” Along those lines, Sharon says, the Hearst staff will work to expand the museum’s lecture series, offer regularly scheduled exhibits, plan educational programs for K-12 students, and enhance the museum’s links with cultural centers and heritage communities.

“This is public patrimony, and the public should see it,” Sharon says about sharing the Hearst’s collections.

Sharon says another of his key responsibilities will be fundraising for expanded and improved quarters for the museum and its collections.

A scholar with links to Berkeley
The author or co-author of five books and 22 scholarly articles, Sharon earned his Ph.D. in anthropology at UCLA, where he worked in the 1970s as a research anthropologist at the Latin American Center. He has taught at UCLA, San Diego State University, and California State University at San Marcos, as well as at the National University of Trujillo, Peru, where he recently established a field school for ethnobotany as part of a collaborative program with San Diego State and the San Diego Museum of Man.

He has done fieldwork in Ecuador and Peru, as well as in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia. The focus of his research has been the cultural anthropology, primarily shamanism, of the Andean nations. A documentary film that he produced on Peruvian shamanism, “Eduardo the Healer,” won awards at the American Film Festival, Modern Language Film Festival and John Muir Film Festival, as well as the 1980 Medical Anthropology Award.

He says he has an ongoing relationship with Berkeley that dates back to time he spent working on a post-doctoral grant on campus with folklore professor Alan Dundes as his adviser. Sharon also is active in the Institute of Andean Studies, which holds its annual meeting on campus, and has researched some of the Hearst’s Andean collections.

He credits Professor Kirch, his predecessor at the Hearst Museum, with bringing the museum into compliance with the inventory-reporting requirements of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and developing a “brilliant, first-rate” strategic plan for the museum for the next decade. Kirch also oversaw the recent renovation of the Native Californian Cultures Gallery to house approximately 500 artifacts from California Indian collections that are considered the largest and most comprehensive in the world.


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