Student spotlight: Michael McCullough

When considering who could be the first student to showcase in our Student Spotlight feature, Michael McCullough easily came to mind.  Not only has Michael worked in the lab as a work-study student for the last two and a half years, he has assisted on many interesting projects including the loan of the Japanese dolls.  Read more to find out about his long-standing interest in Japanese culture, his academic interests at Temple, and his semester abroad at Temple Japan.

Tell me about your work in the Lab.  

I’m a work-study student and really my day-to-day tasks change a lot.  Basically, I research and document artifacts, reconstruct archaeological materials and help out in the Lab and around the department as needed.

What brought you here?

I decided in 10th grade that I wanted to be an anthropologist, so when I came to Temple I knew I wanted to major in Anthropology.  I’ve always been interested in world cultures.  During my first semester, I was interested in finding a work-study position.  I spoke to my anthropology professor, Dr. [Patricia] Hansell, and a T.A. in her class, Jeremy Koch, suggested that I stop by the Lab and talk to Muriel.  It’s been a great opportunity.

Any favorite projects?

The most interesting project I’ve worked on is definitely the international loan of the Japanese dolls from the Commercial Museum collection to the Bunkyo Link for Architectural Preservation (a Japanese Historical Society) in Japan.  I helped photograph and document the pieces.  I researched packing design, made custom boxes and packed the materials.  Along the way, I learned about customs issues, travel and museum standards, and of course, more about Japanese culture, which I am very interested in.

Speaking of Japan, tell me about your semester abroad and your experience in Japan this past spring.  In particular, what did you notice about the culture there and how did your experience in the Lab carry over to your semester abroad?

I applied to the Temple Japan program about a year in advance.   The classes were in English (except for Japanese language).  I took 3 semesters of Japanese before going as well.

In terms of culture, I noticed the sameness more than the differences, which was interesting.  And as for my work in the Lab, I met with Temple Japan Professor Ann Ebrecht and Sumiko Enbutsu, who is a driving force in the upcoming show, on several occasions to talk about the status of the dolls.  Enbutsu-san gave us a tour of the house where the dolls will be exhibited.  It was exciting to see the whole process from Philadelphia to Tokyo coming together.

The Fukushima earthquake hit in April.  We felt the earthquake in Tokyo.  Actually, you can see me and other Temple Japan students working in a computer lab on the Temple Japan campus in a youtube video taken by another student during the earthquake (I’m the one in the glasses).  Honestly, my friends and family were more panicked than I was.  Tokyo was calm and we were not close to the devastation.  Initially, classes were cancelled and eventually the program ended for the semester with students returning to the States.  I was scanned at the airport for radiation (none was found).  I would definitely return to Japan.

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