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Staff Research Areas

Alex Barker

My research focuses on three main topics: 1) the economies of prestate hierarchical societies, and in particular the articulation of household and political economies in such societies; 2) the role of both household and political economies in the rise of social inequality; and 3) the role of symbols and iconography in leveraging and legitimating social inequalities. These are, of course, closely related and intertwined topics, and they are less a series of discrete topics than themes that inform my research and influence my thinking. Most of my research is in the temperate latitudes of the North American mid-continent and east-central Europe, and examines various permutations of these three research themes. I’ve also become increasingly concerned with issues of cultural property, tangible heritage and the use of the material past in constructing modern social identities-interests that inform my continuing research on the so-called Moundbuilders of North America.

Funerary Relief: Bust of a Woman
Northern Syria,
Seleucia on the Euphrates (?)
Roman, A.D. 97/98
Limestone
(70.19)

Cathy Callaway

The connection between mourning and lamentation in classical mythology and modern times has been an interest of mine in the past few years. In Homer and Greek tragedy, the mythical laments serve to underscore the horrors of war and especially its effect on women and children. I was pleased to find “Levitha” sitting up in the ancient gallery when I arrived at the Museum: a funerary bust of a woman dating about 97-98 CE. It is inscribed in ancient Greek, which is how it is dated and the woman can be identified as “Levitha.” Thanks to Levitha, I was able to tie together topics of epigraphy, cultural negotiation, and class standing all in one article! “A Matter of Life and Death: ‘Reading’ a Funerary Monument.” Muse 43 (2009) 31-45.

Up until now, my favorite topic for research was what I worked on while a research assistant to Dr. Gladys Weinberg, co-founder of the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Her expertise was Roman glass, but she generously shared with me the information she had gathered on theriaka or theriac, a medicine that was taken for more than two thousand years. The results of this research are published in "Theriaka: A Panacea for All Periods," Muse 29 & 30 (1995-96)12-29.

Benton Kidd

My research interests focus upon the complex phenomenon of material culture studies, how physical artifacts from the smallest scale such as our ancient glass collection to entire landscapes such as Francis Quadrangle can objectify culture. For example, my book The Gateway Arch: Fact & Symbol (1992) examines the many cultural meanings embodied in our tallest national monument. More recently, my research interest has evolved toward understanding how we interpret material culture and thereby translate messages from the past into the present;  museum studies itself becomes a form of material culture study. Along that line, I currently write a column about heritage preservation for Missouri Life magazine exploring our historic sites and interpreting how they speak to us today. For more information, please see my website.

Arthur Mehrhoff

My research interests focus upon the complex phenomenon of material culture studies, how physical artifacts from the smallest scale such as our ancient glass collection to entire landscapes such as Francis Quadrangle can objectify culture. For example, my book The Gateway Arch: Fact & Symbol (1992) examines the many cultural meanings embodied in our tallest national monument. More recently, my research interest has evolved toward understanding how we interpret material culture and thereby translate messages from the past into the present;  museum studies itself becomes a form of material culture study. Along that line, I currently write a column about heritage preservation for Missouri Life magazine exploring our historic sites and interpreting how they speak to us today. For more information, please see my website.

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