Invasion of Privacy: Anthropology professor Kathryn Murano brings field experience to classroom

Adjunct anthropology professor Kathryn Murano said that the objective of her classes is to "open students' minds up to something new." As a registrar and curator at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, a world traveler and a Geneseo professor, Murano easily brings unique and interesting information into the classroom.

From the start, Murano said the Rochester Museum and Science Center played a prominent role in her life and her decision to become an anthropologist as an adult. Her mother brought her there almost every day as a child. She said she was particularly fascinated by the Native American exhibits.

"I've always been interested in putting myself in someone else's shoes," she said.

As Murano gazed at the museum's collection as a young girl, she said she would never have guessed that one day, after receiving degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Cambridge in England, she would be handling the artifacts herself as an employee.

Murano has been a registrar at the museum for the past eight years, organizing and documenting the museum's 1.2 million object collection, which includes – among other things – artifacts from Iroquois tribes, two locally excavated Mastodon skeletons and one of Murano's personal favorites: a necromancer's apron from Tibet made of human bone. Murano also curates exhibitions at the museum, which she acknowledges as one of the highlights of her job.

Her work at the museum led to her becoming a professor at Geneseo. She helped anthropology professor Russell Judkins illustrate a book that he was publishing with pictures from the museum. Through the friendship they developed, Murano was informed of an open position in the anthropology department.

Murano was originally interested in pursuing archaeology rather than anthropology, but she changed her mind over time.

Murano explained, "Why would I want to do all of the tedious lab work [of an archaeologist], when I could actively go out and talk to people [as an anthropologist] and learn about their cultures that way?"

Murano has trekked through Europe where she studied fashion design in Florence, Italy, explored small villages in France and marveled at the "magical" canals of Venice. She spent a year in an intensive master's degree program at Cambridge University in England.

On living in England, she remarked, "The system is very, very different." She said that she is, however, in awe of the history she encountered there, and noted that she "[lived] in a dorm that was built in the 14th century or earlier."

Murano emphasized her passion for feeling simultaneously "connected to the past and the future." Her travels have given her insight into different cultures, enabling her to transfer this knowledge to Geneseo students.

At Geneseo, Murano has taught two experimental anthropology classes thus far. ANTH 288: Museums and Material Culture gives students hands-on experience building their own museum exhibits, and ANTH 288: Clash of Traditions endows students with a better understanding of alternative worldviews.

Murano's travels and work at museums have been her great preparation for teaching such classes, as she is a professor both skilled in preparing her students for the world after college and in introducing them to new thoughts and ideas.