My museum work career began as an undergraduate at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, where I volunteered on archaeology research projects and studied parts of the museum’s ethnographic collections. As a first-year graduate student at Indiana University, I worked at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures doing cataloging and collections research, focusing on the museum’s Native American collections. I completed a student exhibition presenting the museum’s fine Florida Seminole collections and did work with its Plains collections as part of a project directed by Raymond J. DeMallie. Upon moving to Oklahoma in 1995, I began work at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, where I collaborated closely with the museum’s then-senior curator Daniel C. Swan. I filled a number of roles at Gilcrease, ultimately working as Curator of Anthropology. In 2000 I moved to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH), where I became the museum’s first Curator of Ethnology. While at Gilcrease, I taught museum and material culture studies in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. At SNOMNH, my appointment was a joint one split between the museum and the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Anthropology. In that capacity, I also taught museum and material culture studies courses. Returning to Indiana University in 2004, I have continued teaching in these fields and collaborating with several museums on exhibitions, research and outreach programs. Many of the students with whom I work have strong museum interests and are pursuing their own exhibition and research projects in preparation for museum careers.
In 2012 I was named Faculty Curator of American Ethnology at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, but soon afterwards I was given the unique opportunity to serve as the museum’s Director. As the museum began its 50th anniversary year in 2013, I was named its third Director. My Directorship concluded at the end of 2019 at which time I returned full-time to work as a Professor of Folklore Studies and Anthropology. I am a Research Associate in the Department of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and in the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. I remain active in museum projects and in working with students in preparation for museum careers.
I regularly teach a graduate course on “Curatorship” and an undergraduate course on “Museums and Material Culture” for the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University.