2023 Ritzenthaler Museum Research Internship Award

Betty Lozano examining the MPM’s South American Aerophone Collection

Betty Lozano is the 2023 Ritzenthaler Museum Research Internship Award Recipient. During this spring semester, she continued examining a portion of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s South American aerophone collection which consists of 56 archaeological and ethnographic examples from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and Paraguay. The aerophones (consisting primarily of pan pipes and flutes) were acquired and donated by 23 different individuals and organizations, the earliest in 1925 and the latest in 1999, and little to no research has been conducted on the materials since they came to the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM).

Betty was interested in developing a thesis on South American aerophones after she was introduced to the collection by MPM Anthropology Curator Dawn Scher Thomae as  a potential thesis topic. Betty was encouraged by Scher Thomae to investigate the function  and various types of South American aerophones as well as identify the species of bamboo and distinctive decorative elements seen throughout the collection.

One of the tasks she began with involved recording catalog documentation consisting of the donor, date, and object description. She is currently making detailed descriptions of the 56 thesis items noting their patterns and types and taking measurements and photographs. A component of this project involves comparative analysis of the collection that will be conducted by reviewing published and online images of similar artifacts from China and Japan to identify variations and similarities in the style of aerophones. A material analysis of the bamboo used to produce a subset of the collection will be done with Dr. Christopher Tyrrell, Research Curator of Botany at the MPM. This should allow some of the bamboo material to be identified and will provide another variable to be used in the comparative analysis aiding in the exploration of the native or nonnative bamboo hypothesis indicating contact with others.

Betty will be categorizing the aerophones at the MPM further than the basic category of flute. Many of the objects can be broken down into basic categories including panpipes, whistles, vertical and transverse flutes. By classifying the South American aerophones in the MPM’s collection, this thesis will help to inform future collecting and enhance the research and exhibition value of the aerophone artifacts from South America. The resulting data can then be used for additional research avenues, public programming, and/or exhibition at the Milwaukee Public Museum.