Brown receives $5M to prep Haffenreffer Museum for a move to Providence

Updated at 2:13 p.m.

IN A STATEMENT THURSDAY, Brown University announced a $5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant will fund efforts to catalog, photography and establish a professional inventory of the school's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology collection prior to a yet-to-be-determined relocation to Providence from Bristol. / COURTESY BROWN UNIVERSITY
BROWN UNIVERSITY announced that a $5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant will fund efforts to catalog, photography and establish a professional inventory of the school's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology collection prior to a relocation to Providence from Bristol. / COURTESY BROWN UNIVERSITY

PROVIDENCE – Preparation for a planned move from Bristol to Providence for the Brown University Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology was announced Thursday after the receipt of a $5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

Cataloging, photographing and storage of the museum’s collection – which includes nearly one million ethnographic objects and archaeological specimens – will be covered by the grant.

A future home in Providence is yet to be determined by the Ivy League school. The school also did not provide a timeline for the move.

According to Brown’s announcement, inventorying and relocating the Haffenreffer collection to the capital city will allow for a more centralized collections management process, new academic opportunities for scholars focused on Native American and indigenous studies and increased public access.

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“A move to Providence would consolidate the research, teaching and exhibition activities of the museum under one roof,” said Robert Preucel, director of the Haffenreffer Museum and a Brown professor of anthropology, in a statement. “This transformational award from the Mellon Foundation allows us to move one step closer toward that goal.”

In 2017, the land on which the museum sits currently was encamped by the Pokanoket nation and other indigenous groups in protest of its continued ownership by the university.

The Pokanoket regard the area as their ancestral home.

After 37 days of encampment, Brown and the nation signed an agreement which placed a portion of the land in a preservation trust guaranteeing access for the Pokanoket nation moving forward. It requires the group to “agree upon a viable governance and organization structure” prior to the university “transfer[ing]” ownership.

Russell Carey, Brown’s executive vice president for planning and policy, said the school remains supportive of that ongoing process.

“We now have the support we need to begin photographing all our objects and adding them to our collections management database,” said Carey of the grant. “This marks a crucial first step in bringing more visibility to historical and contemporary Native culture and strengthening the study of indigenous culture, both here at Brown and elsewhere.”

The museum’s foundation is linked to the 1903 purchase of a former amusement park in the Mount Hope section of Bristol by brewer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Rudolf F. Haffenreffer Jr.

As a neighborhood, Mount Hope was the scene of multiple important events in U.S. history which predated the Revolutionary War – including the site of tribal councils held by Metacom, often referred to as King Philip.

The Haffenreffer Museum has a global collection of archaeological, ethnographic and nonwestern art, including a collection of indigenous arts of the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Upon his death in 1954, Haffenreffer’s heirs donated the museum and the Bristol property to Brown.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.