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UC Berkeley's anthropology museum announces the hiring of its first full-time director
24 October 2002

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations

Berkeley - Research anthropologist and museum executive Douglas Sharon will become the first full-time director of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, the campus announced today (Thursday, Oct. 24).

Sharon, executive director for 21 years of the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park , will officially assume leadership of the 101-year-old UC Berkeley museum and its vast collections in January.


Douglas Sharon
Douglas Sharon, new director of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology. (Photo courtesy San Diego Museum of Man)

He is credited with transforming the San Diego facility through major renovations, dramatic changes in funding sources, creation of state-of-the-art exhibits and by increasing the number of visitors to 250,000 a year. Sharon doubled collection storage, added a 16,000-square-foot education and design center, and oversaw the renovation of expanded exhibits, installation of a modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and the restoration of an historic chapel.

"Sharon's strengths in program development, facility planning, outreach and fundraising are essential in the leadership of the Hearst at this critical juncture in its history," said Robert Price, UC Berkeley's associate vice chancellor for research and a professor of political science. Priced chaired the search committee that recommended Sharon.

Sharon will face many challenges at the Hearst that are similar to those he encountered in San Diego. Based in Kroeber Hall and home to the largest anthropological collections in the United States west of the Mississippi, the Hearst boasts more than 3.8 million objects from early California and other portions of North America, and from ancient Egypt, Africa, Oceania and Peru.

Like many public and private museums, the museum has long suffered from insufficient space and funding. Throughout its history, directors have juggled museum duties with the rigors of teaching and field research.

"Doug Sharon is both a seasoned museum professional, as well as an accomplished anthropologist and scholar," said Patrick V. Kirch, the outgoing Hearst museum director and a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley. Kirch is widely known for his research on the archaeology and prehistory of the Pacific Islands.

"I am delighted that, for the first time in its 100-plus-year history, the Hearst museum will have a full-time director at the helm," Kirch said. "This is a key element in the 'Vision for Transformation' plan which my staff and I worked hard to develop over the past four years. I very much look forward to working with Doug over the next few years."

Sharon already is making plans.

"My first step will be to make what we've got work better," he said. "I want to get the museum in the public eye, and the best way to do that is public education and outreach."

Along those lines, Sharon said, the Hearst staff will work to expand the museum's lecture series, offer regularly scheduled exhibits, plan educational programs for K-12 students, and enhance the museum's links with cultural centers and heritage communities.

"This is public patrimony, and the public should see it," Sharon said about sharing the Hearst's collections.

Sharon said another of his key responsibilities will be fundraising for expanded and improved quarters for the museum and its collections.

He credited Kirch with bringing the museum into compliance with the inventory reporting requirements of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and developing a "brilliant, first-rate" strategic plan for the museum for the next decade. Kirch also oversaw the recent renovation of the Native Californian Cultures Gallery to house approximately 500 artifacts from California Indian collections that are considered the largest and most comprehensive in the world. "As a museum insider, I've been watching what's been going on there and have been really impressed," Sharon said.

He said he has an ongoing relationship with UC Berkeley that dates back to time he spent working on a post-doctoral grant on campus with folklore professor Alan Dundes as his adviser. Sharon also is active in the Institute of Andean Studies, which holds its annual meeting on campus, and has researched some of the Hearst's Andean collections.

The author or co-author of five books and 22 scholarly articles, Sharon earned his PhD degree in anthropology at UCLA, where he worked in the 1970s as a research anthropologist at the Latin American Center. He has taught at UCLA, San Diego State University and California State University at San Marcos, as well as at the National University of Trujillo, Peru, where he recently established a field school for ethnobotany as part of a collaborative program with San Diego State and the San Diego Museum of Man.

He has done fieldwork in Ecuador and Peru, as well as in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia.

Sharon has worked for decades in Peru and played a key role in acquiring protection for one of the latest archaeological finds there -intact, bundled mummies located in steep cliff tombs on the jungle's edge.

The focus of his research has been the cultural anthropology, primarily shamanism, of the Andean nations. A documentary film that he produced on Peruvian shamanism, "Eduardo the Healer," won awards at the American Film Festival, Modern Language Film Festival and John Muir Film Festival, as well as the 1980 Medical Anthropology Award.