Products and Processes of Human Evolution on Full Display at Cleveland Museum of Art and Kent State

Most experiences in an art museum are detected from a distance. Rules are strictly enforced to keep admirers from touching the precious artifacts. But Associate Professor Jeanne Marie Stumpf-Carome, MA, MS, Ph.D., breaks through those barriers. She brings lessons in cultural anthropology, archaeology, sociology and human evolution alive with hands-on learning explorations for her Kent State Geauga students. As such, she demonstrates the timeless relevance of cultural artifacts found in the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) collections. 


By regularly incorporating the CMA’s "Art to Go" program into her courses, such as "The Art of the Alphabet," she brings objects from the museum’s Education Art Collection to campus, providing students with unparalleled experiential learning. For example, with gloved hands, students hold a Mesopotamian cylinder seal (2750– 2334 BC), a Tablet, (about 541 BC), an Akkadian cuneiform fragment (Mesopotamia, Babylon), a modern papyrus sample, and much more.


Dr. Stumpf-Carome was awarded the Connie Towson Ford Teaching Fellowship from the CMA for the 2018-19 academic year, continuing through July 2019. Along with nine other fellows, Dr. Stumpf-Carome is collaborating in a think tank with the support of the CMA’s Public and Academic Engagement team.  Each fellow develops their own projects based in an action-based research question, or in object-based, or gallery-based learning experiences.


“Experimentation, innovation, anything to push the boundaries of gallery-based experiences are their guiding principles,” Dr. Stumpf-Carome explains. She is exploring ways to use the existing context of the museum’s programs, like the Art Cart, Art to Go, and Distance Learning to further develop anthropological orientations for using the collections. She will initially use these resources in her own courses, but they may become available to anyone on the Kent State University campus and for community-wide access.


With transformation in mind, Dr. Stumpf-Carome says, “I would like to reframe and broaden the art museum experience. CMA is not just about art as objects. Art, as an apogee of human evolution, is both the products and processes. The museum functions both as a ‘shrine’ to human evolution and as evidence of this process with its collections.”

Taking experiential learning and art further into her courses, Dr. Stumpf-Carome is incorporating work with clay as a way of building memory and the experience of copying the technology/tool types in human evolution. “I have always had an experimental archeology component for learning theses stone tool technology types, but have added this,” she explains. In addition, she offers bonus point activities for extra credit to encourage students to visit the museum and its galleries.


With eight months remaining in the Fellowship, she looks forward to further research in Ingalls Library and Museum Archives, time in the galleries, and increased collaboration with the staff and her colleagues. The results of her work will be made available in June 2019.


Meanwhile, in November, Dr. Stumpf-Carome presented a poster in San Jose during the 117th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Society, regarding her nine-year ecotourism research project on tourism and zoonoses (animal-to-human disease transmission). “Tourism, Pathogens, Captive Environments, and Disease Transmission” explores how human diseases in captive animals are a public health issue. With over 1,300 zoos and aquariums worldwide and more than 700 million visitors each year, the potential for pathogen spread is a real and practical concern. Her presentation detailed current data, zoonotic dynamics, and the role of tourists as possible vectors of disease transmission.


Dr. Stumpf-Carome’s multi-faceted and dynamic approach to her subject underscores an anthropological understanding of human evolution and complexity of cultures across human history. Drawing upon social and biological sciences, the humanities and physical sciences, anthropologists like Dr. Stumpf-Carome apply their knowledge to help solve pressing human problems… and she is teaching her students at Kent State Geauga to do the same.