Listen to a conversation between a student and his anthropology professor.
Well, Matthew, good to see you. How can I help you?
Did you happen to read last weekend's Arts section of the newspaper?
[laughs confusedly] Um, yes I did. Why?
Well, you remember the article about an exhibition of ancient featherwork pieces from Peru?
Uh, I'm thinking of doing my research paper on this topic, if it's OK with you, of course.
I've done some additional reading about ancient Peruvian cultures... how they used brightly colored feathers to decorate clothes and ceremonial objects.
Uh, from the pictures I've seen, they're beautiful works of art.
They sure are. I saw the exhibition a few days ago....
But is that how you'd approach Peruvian featherwork in your paper? As an art form?
Remember, you need to take an anthropological angle, uh, look at this in a way that tells us something about the people who made this featherwork and the societies they lived in.
I read that most of the really colorful feathers came from the rain forest, and the societies who used them lived on the coast on the other side of the Andes mountains, so the feathers had to be carried over the Andes!
No wonder featherwork was a symbol of high status in ancient Peruvian societies.
Well, that's definitely a long, dangerous trip to make on foot.
I do research down in Peru and I've made that trip, but the easy way-I've flown and driven.
I didn't know you did research in Peru.
Maybe- do you think you'd be able to help me with this paper?
I'll be happy to help if I can, but Peruvian featherwork isn't my area of expertise.
You know, very few pieces of featherwork survive because feathers decay so quickly.
Not many people have had a chance to study them up close.
There's a handful of experts out there who have, and I could try to contact some of them, but I think your best bet is to keep reading and finding more books and articles.
And of course, you can use the information you got at the exhibition as source material, too.
You have been to the exhibition, haven't you?
[sheepishly] Uh, actually...not yet.
Um...well, it would be a good idea if you went, don't you think?
It's good that you've done some background reading, but it will make more sense when you actually see the featherwork.
There's a lot of information available there from booklets, tour guides, and you could even ask to meet with the curator and ask for her insights.