Rolling with the Punches: Anna Brown and the Bright Side


Elizabeth Shaw, Baker's Dozen Assistant Editor

Although COVID-19 has had a big impact on Anna Brown’s plans for senior year, she is making the most of her penultimate semester on campus. As a concentrator in anthropology and Spanish, she had big travel plans for college. After completing a wonderful fall 2019 semester abroad in Madrid, Spain, Brown turned her sights to summer 2020. She had an idea for a research proposal for the Lampert Institute which involved 3D scanning objects from the Xaltocan Museum’s collection in Mexico to study the potential benefits and limitations of 3D scanning in the field of Archaeology and to hopefully create a virtual exhibit with the 3D scans on Colgate’s campus. The trip was, of course, canceled due to the coronavirus, but instead of giving up on her internship plans for the semester, she transformed her research into an opus on spindle whorl imagery on Aztec artifacts. 

“I still wanted to study the Aztec people, so I ended up pursuing Lampert remotely. I was looking at previous archaeological studies of spindle whorls from the Aztec empire in three different locations in order to find out how the increased tribute demands for cloth in the late post-classic period were influencing the culture and material among commoners,” she explained. 

Although she did not get the chance over the summer, Brown now works as a curatorial intern at the Longyear Museum of Anthropology and is using 3D scanning on objects from Colgate’s own collection.

“I’m working on 3D digitization of some of the [Longyear] collection and using that for educational outreach,” she said.

3D scanning also plays an important role in her thesis:

“I’m looking at the potential of 3D scanning technology to assist in repatriation efforts in museums,” she said. “Repatriation is really only one aspect of decolonization, so if we could figure out a way to do that with the technology and how to prevent further harm, then that’s an important discussion to have.”

She wants to continue along this vein in graduate school, where she plans to study how the Aztec state influenced art expression among commoners. The associated fieldwork will be the perfect union of her anthropological and Spanish backgrounds. While she got into anthropology through electives like archaeology, Brown always planned to study Spanish. She started learning at age 10 and is now the Secretary of the Spanish Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi.

“I love studying Spanish because I can learn about many diverse and different Hispanic cultures.”

In her role as secretary, she recently participated in a video series highlighting Hispanic cuisine where she made a tortilla de patatas. This traditional Spanish dish consists mainly of eggs and potatoes and turned out to be a tricky endeavor. At the final moment in the video, her creation split apart spilling eggs and potatoes across her counter. Brown characteristically took the moment in stride.

No es perfecto… pero tiene mucho sabor!” [It’s not perfect, but it has a lot of flavor!] she said, and later reflected, “That’s the thing about cooking too, even if you mess up that’s how you learn.”

Cooking with her roommates is just one way she is making the most of her senior year. They have crafted everything from delectable Nutella brownies to biryani and alfredo. She has a bit of extra time this semester since her role as a member of the Colgate Chamber Player, Jazz Ensemble and president of the Colgate University Orchestra is on hold until she can play the clarinet with the rest of the ensembles. She has been devoting any free time to making the extra effort to see friends and take time for herself.

“It’s really sad, I feel like everyone is on autopilot right now — just trying not to think about everything — but I’ve just been spending time with my friends whether that’s over Zoom or just being with my roommates,” she said. “I’m also trying to be outside as much as possible, really, and then just making more of an effort to talk to my friends and making plans to see each other. In past semesters we had the chapel basement to hang out in so there was no need to make plans to see each other at a certain time, whereas now we don’t have common spaces really to hang out, so we have to make more of an effort to see each other.”

Although it’s not what she expected, she is still enjoying being on campus — especially when the sun catches the trees just right on the sidewalk from Lawrence to the library, or when grabbing a “Jenny” from Flour and Salt. As for aspiring underclassmen, she has some pertinent advice:

“Do the things that make you happy, but still focus on the long run; find a balance between what you need in the present and planning for the future,” she said, “Oh, and go to office hours!”