Study abroad, internships, and double majors are just a few of the opportunities available at Washington College, and Astra Haldeman ‘07 took advantage of all of them.
A double major in art history and anthropology, Astra spent a semester at University College Cork in Ireland, participated in a summer field study in Peru funded by the Society of Junior Fellows, and studied museums and artisan communities in India. Closer to home, she interned at museums in nearby Rock Hall, Md. and also participated in WC’s summer field school in archaeology.
“The field school was one of the things that helped me decide I wanted to major in anthropology as well as art,” she said.
Astra, who graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors in both majors, enrolled in the Museums and Cultural Heritage program at the University of Auckland in New Zealand after graduation. She was one of 16 recipients of the $26,000 ambassadorial scholarships sponsored by Rotary International for study abroad.
“I picked the program because I was looking for something that nicely combined art history, anthropology, and archaeology,” she said. “It’s an interdisciplinary program so it lets you build the program the way you want it.”
In that way, it mirrors Astra’s undergraduate experience. “Washington College really lets you pursue your own interests,” she said. For her senior capstone project in art history, Astra conducted an iconological study of the turtle in art. On the strength of her academic achievements, Astra was inducted into the College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and, at graduation, received the Art History Award, the Anthropology Award and the Eugene B. Casey Medal.
“Attending a small school was really, really fantastic. You give up a little in course selection, but the opportunities to get to know your professors and learn from them are amazing,” she said.
After earning her Diploma of Arts from the yearlong program in New Zealand, Astra returned to the United States to begin her career in museum work at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine.
“I enjoyed working alongside international scholars, but I chose to return to the U.S. to gain professional experience. Many of my classmates had worked in museums, and I admired the knowledge they could contribute to discussions,” she said. “I’m happy to be working in the field gathering my own experiences.”
The Abbe Museum is devoted to educating visitors on the art, archaeology and culture of the Wabanaki Nations. As Museum Educator and Retail Specialist, Astra develops hands-on activities for children and school groups, organizes adult tours and rainy-day programs, and works with the museum’s book and gift shops.
“As an educator, I have the unique opportunity to meet the Native artists and share their works with visitors, and as the retail specialist, I’m able to purchase and promote their art,” she said.
As both an undergraduate and graduate student, Astra chose programs that allowed her to merge her passions for art and anthropology, and she’s found the same opportunity in her career.
“The Abbe Museum is a great place for me because it includes forms of art, anthropology, and archaeology – from contemporary Native art to the archaeological past of Maine,” she said. “I feel so lucky to have found a job that combines my interests and very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with and learn from everyone at the Abbe.”
Cater Society Of Junior Fellows Research
My Cater Society of Junior Fellows project, “Traditional Indian Craft,” allowed me to explore aspects of traditional craft in New Delhi, India. While in India I was able to witness a variety of ways in which traditional craft in India is preserved, as well as the manner in which artists both create and perform their various crafts. I had the opportunity to visit the Kathputli Colony, a large artists’ community of about 5000 inhabitants that have emigrated from the state of Rajisthan. These artists have been able to maintain and improve their lifestyle, as well as find new markets for their crafts, through the aid of the Kalakar Trust, an NGO that helps the Kathputli Colony with income generation, healthcare, counseling, disease prevention, and education for both children and adults. While at the Kathputli Colony, I saw artists both perform and produce their crafts, which included puppets, music, and dance.
I also brought materials to use for a photography project, which will help to generate awareness about the efforts of the Kalakar Trust. In addition to visiting this community of artists, I also visited the National Crafts Museum, where a large variety of crafts, from both the past and present are on display. The Museum showcases these crafts both in its galleries, as well as in an outdoor area for crafts demonstrations, where visitors can see the making of traditional crafts from all over India. My experience in India allowed me to understand different methods that are being used to preserve traditional Indian craft, as well as learn more about the crafts and the artists themselves.