Fun Activities

On The Job

Research and Development - ANTHROPOLOGIST


bullet.gif (981 bytes)What can WE Australians do about a permanent and exciting space for the Berndt Museum?

MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

1. Read the following information about The Berndt Museum. Jot down notes on your second re-read.

 "The Berndt Museum at The University of Western Australia (UWA) holds one of the most significant collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural material in the world, manifesting in art, objects, archives, manuscripts, film and sound and photographic collections."

Berndt Museum

The challenge however is....

"We don't have anywhere for permanent display ... the collection generally is pretty safe, it's pretty healthy, but it's a bit of a challenge to access it," Dr Vanessa Russ, Associate Director said.


15 May 2017 - ABC News report:

Tucked away at the back of a car park, underneath a gallery in a Perth university, sits a museum most West Australians would not even know existed.

It houses what is believed to be one of the most culturally significant collections of Indigenous artefacts from around Australia and the Pacific.

But right now, the Berndt Museum is more of a storeroom — and its collection is hidden in cardboard boxes.

The museum has about 12,000 objects, as well as 35,000 photographs and archival material documenting Aboriginal Australia.

It was given to the University of Western Australia (UWA) in the 1950s by world-renowned anthropologists Catherine and Ronald Berndt.

The Berndts spent 60 years travelling to Indigenous sites around Australia and other parts of the world, collecting and commissioning artefacts and documenting their studies.

For decades, their collection was stored in a basement at the university, but in 2010 it was moved to its current site — originally intended to be temporary.

Vanessa Russ has been pushing for a dedicated, purpose-built space for the collection since she became associate director of the museum.

"We do have visits from the community and often there's sometimes a bit of frustration at not being able to just walk into a space and see it for themselves.

"But we do assure them that UWA is very passionate about this collection and we know there's definitely a future for it."

After a conversation with Dr Russ, Australian National University (ANU) research fellow Louise Hamby was invited to study some handmade baskets uncovered last year in an old flour bin that had remained unopened for 75 years.

She said her first impressions of the Berndt Museum were that it was quite mundane.

"Cardboard boxes don't quite give you that sense of awe, but taking them out, looking at the objects, looking at the things around you, that's when you get this wow effect," Dr Hamby said.

"A museum for a lot of people is just the front, the showroom and in this case ... there's no sort of front of house, if you would like, it's all back of house."

Getting a dedicated space has been a slow process.

"We've been working on this for about 10 years ... the university would love to have facilities that match the grandeur of the collection, it really is a great collection," UWA vice-chancellor Kent Anderson said.

But Professor Anderson said they would need help to fund a project of that size.

2. In a group of four, you are going to develop a Twitter and Facebook campaign to help the Berndt Museum raise $23M - that is just one dollar from each Australian.

3. Look at the following websites to help you get an idea of how to instigate a Twitter and Facebook campaign.

The biggest challenge you will face is how to engage students and the community to be at all interested in helping the Berndt Museum!

Brainstorm as a group to think how you will go about this engagement! What interested you will interest other people!

bullet.gif (981 bytes)Campaign: UK

bullet.gif (981 bytes)The Complete Guide to Twitter Marketing

Sprout Social
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Dream Grow

Dream Grow
bullet.gif (981 bytes)Kissmetrics Blog


4. Conduct your campaign at school and evaluate the response.

5. Make any changes to your campaign and let it go viral. You will be doing Australia a great service!


bullet.gif (981 bytes)Parent - Infant Observation

High SchoolSecondary

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding


TeacherTeacher - Procedure (Source: Adapted from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History PDF. By Ruth Selig)

"Invite a mother and her infant (age 10 months to two years is optimal) [or a Father and his infant] to come to your classroom along with a bagful of favourite toys. Explain that students will be observing the infant playing."  (Source: Adapted from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History PDF. By Ruth Selig)

Variations: You will need to judge whether the parent and particularly the child is tired by 60 - 90 minutes of observation. A good time is early in the morning.

It might be a good idea to ask the parent if you can video tape the session as this will give the students a good record of the observations.

To allow the students to be "in situ" Anthropologists, they need to talk with the parent to understand their reactions and feelings about being a parent to this infant. This addition will require a second visit by the parent to the classroom.


Mother Infant Father Infant

Instructions for Students:

1. You are to choose one problem listed below and concentrate your observation for 10 minutes on that problem.

You should take notes during the observation. At the end of 10 minutes take a break so you can write up a summary of your findings.

2. Now choose a second problem to observe and repeat the procedure.

3. Finally, you are to share your observations for each of the five problems and draw some general conclusions within the class.



1. Physical Characteristics

What seems to be the baby's chief physical characteristics start with the head and proceed downwards. Describe the features "in action", which features seem most responsible for the differences in baby's behavior. What are the anatomical differences responsible for the differences in baby and mother's behavior and physical presence?

2. Activity: Locomotion

What locomotion are the two engaged in? How much time is spent sitting; standing; walking on all four's; standing on feet, knees; lying down, etc. What types of locomotion seem most efficient for each subject? How are the locomotor activities related to the behavior going on? How is the method of locomotion related to anatomy?

3. Activity: Behaviour
What activities are the two engaged in? Estimate the time for each type. Can you mark off behaviour sequenced? What seems to mark the beginning of a sequence, and what
motivates or brings about the beginning of a new sequence? What shifts the attention of
each subject? (Remember that behaviour also includes talking)

Infant playing4. Communication

List the types of communication acts which occur during your observation period.
Communication includes non-verbal acts: visual, tactile, olfactory, vocal-auditory acts.

Try to note the frequency of each act. Which kinds of communication occur most often,
which seem most effective, and why.

Who initiates communication more often? Who receives it more often?

The last two minutes of your time focus on the communication going on in your room
outside the Mother-Infant [Father-Infant] group.

Can you draw any conclusions on the possible differences between mother-infant
communication and adult human communication based on this observation? Is there
anything you might hypothesize about early hominid communication based on this

5. Patterns of Interaction

What interactions occur between the two? How much time is spent interacting? Who
initiates contact, who breaks it - how often for each subject? How is contact established
(touch, smile, handing something, etc.) What interactions occur between either subject
and others in the room -- who initiates this contact, and why?

Do your observation taking careful notes so you can quantify the results: count time;
number of interactions; number of times baby initiates contact, etc.
What overall conclusions can you draw?


  • What adjectives would you use to describe the infant's behavior?
  • The parent's?
  • What was the dominant activity?
  • How much interaction occurred and why?
  • Did you enjoy the observation, why or why not?
  • Why is observation difficult and what skills would be useful to have for doing long-term observation studies?

(Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History PDF. By Ruth Selig)

In Addition

6. You are to write up a list of questions to ask the parent about their feelings, thoughts and emotions  about being a parent to this infant.


bullet.gif (981 bytes)Websites and Games (contributed by Dillon Payne ACU Education Student)


American Museum of Natural History: OLogy: AnthropOLogy


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