Foundation Scholar Catherine Althaus

The Chicago Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club and Northwestern University are sponsoring Catherine Althaus to make a circumnavigation in 2013 while conducting research on a topic which she has selected.

Catherine's insightful topic is the "The Treatment of Human Remains in Museums: Navigating the Gap Between Science and Ethics". There were articles on her selection in: Red Eye, The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University , and the NU Office of Undergraduate Research.

See Catherine's blog & photos from her trip.

Background on Catherine Althaus

Catherine Althaus was born in Madison, Wisconsin and grew up loving soccer, swimming, softball, playing piano, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and spending time with her large extended family. For ten summers Catherine attended Camp Black Hawk, a Girl Scout camp in northern Wisconsin, eventually becoming a member of the waterfront staff and a certified lifeguard. Throughout her time at Madison West High School, she became extremely involved in the vibrant theater community – both on stage and behind-the-scenes as a stage manager, one-act play director, and lighting crew head.

Catherine is a junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, studying Biological Anthropology and Spanish. On campus, she is the Co-Chair of CATalyst (a pre-orientation trip for freshmen), a Northwestern Tour Guide, a Dancer Relations Committee member for NU Dance Marathon, an Alternative Student Breaks Volunteer, a Centro Romero Volunteer, and an active member of the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. She continues to stay involved in athletics through playing on the Northwestern Women's Rugby Team and participating in intramural flag football and soccer.

During the summer of 2012 Catherine studied abroad in Spain through the Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies and spent nine weeks touring the country, taking classes, and interning as an English professor for children ages 8-15. Throughout her junior year she interned at The Field Museum under the supervision of the Curator of Biological Anthropology with the primary task of processing CT scans of Peruvian mummies to create 3D image reconstructions.

Photos of Catherine Althaus

Here are photos of Catherine with her students in Spain and in the mountains of Asturias, Spain.

Catherine Class

Catherine Class

Catherine Althaus' Research Topic

Catherine Althaus will travel to eight countries across the globe this summer to pursue her project entitled “The Treatment of Human Remains in Museums: Scientific Specimens or Human Beings?” She aims to examine the complicated intersection between science and ethics that infiltrates the study of human remains and the role museums play in strengthening or straining such a relationship through their treatment and display techniques.

Across eight countries – England, France, Spain, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Chile – she will seek an understanding of museum procedures concerning how the human specimens are distinctly treated, how competing factors (religious, scientific, financial, etc.) affect each institution’s implementation of human remains policies, and how these practices vary between countries.

She hopes to discover ways in which museums effectively balance (or do not balance) scientific interests with potentially competing claims of ownership, cultural practices of indigenous groups, and practical concerns of funds and space.

Catherine also hopes to address the inherent complexity concerning treatment discrepancies between different types of remains depending on how and when they were collected (prehistoric vs. modern, foreign vs. indigenous, acquired during conquest vs. discovered on local land). She will observe the implementation of these policies in museums to investigate first-hand how complex and conflicting relationships directly affect the exhibition and storage methods employed by each institution.

Itinerary of Circumnavigation (draft)

This the list of the countries Catherine will be visiting during her circumnavigation in the summer of 2013.

  • England
  • France
  • Spain
  • Israel
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • Chile