April 18th, 2018.   10:00am - 2:00pm


Face Cast Lab
National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institute
April 18th, 2018. 10:00am - 2:00pm

Why and how did natural history museums create plaster casts of faces? ...


Why and how did natural history museums create plaster casts of faces? The NMNH Anthropology Department, in collaboration with the public art program Parkeology asks these questions through the Face Cast Lab. As an extension of our 2016 program Facing Artifacts, we will explore the technical processes behind how human faces were replicated and used for anthropological research in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Staged in Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center, Face Cast Lab technicians will demonstrate on live models the step-by-step procedures of creating copies of the human face with alginate and plaster. The public and Smithsonian staff are invited to visit and witness this process unfold, and to participate in the Lab's ongoing research about how we are understood and remembered through artifacts. NMNH Physical Anthropologist Dave Hunt, Cultural Anthropologist Gwyneira Isaac, and Smithsonian Researcher Larry Taylor will also be on site, displaying and interpreting face casts created by the NMNH Anthropology department for the 1915 Panama California Exposition.

The Face Cast Lab runs April 18th from 10 am to 2 pm in the Q?rius Barbara and Craig Barrett Lab

Face Cast Lab participants selected which colors they wanted their faces to be patinated. Many participants were linked to the museum, such as staff members, interns, or contractors. Others, such as Larry Taylor and Tristan Ahtone, were family members to individuals who had been cast by early 20th century anthropologists. Each person had the option to personally keep their face cast or to add it to the collections of the National Museum of Natural History. Most participants, chose to donate their faces to the museum. This new collection became a physical track record of those who shared a link to the institution’s management and research of identity.