HRAF 2017 in Review & 2018 Preview

2018 is underway, which means it’s time for our annual news and notes review. This post will summarize our highlights from the previous year as well as what you can expect to see from HRAF in the next 12 months.

2017 in Review

It’s been another eventful year at 755 Prospect in New Haven. Our two Melvin Ember interns from last year, Jack Dunnington and Erik Ringen, have moved on to new positions. Joining us as an intern for 2017-18 is Emily Pitek, who graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a double major in anthropology and psychology. She is assisting Carol Ember with cross-cultural research into environmental disasters and human society.

Also in 2017, our friend and long-term colleague Christiane Cunnar relocated back home to Germany. Chris was a valued member of the HRAF team since 1997. Our member faculty, librarians, and students alike will certainly recall her tireless dedication to HRAF member services, including live webinars and tutorials, co-authoring the original Teaching eHRAF, and sharing HRAF products and services with visitors at anthropological and archaeological conferences. We thank Chris for her many years with HRAF wish her all the best for her future endeavors in Germany.

Joining the HRAF team in Media, Anthropology, and Teaching is Dr. Alissa Jordan. In addition to offering support for our member institutions, Alissa has been developing new teaching materials, helping to diversify our multimedia portfolio, and expanding our social media coverage. You can see some of her work on our YouTube channel, including HRAF’s snazzy new introduction video and our updated suite of eHRAF video tutorials that were also released in 2017.

HRAF intern Emily researching environmental disasters.

Projects, developments & research

In 2016, HRAF launched Explaining Human Culture, a publicly accessible database containing information on over 800 cross-cultural studies spanning more than 100 years. This database is not only open access, but it also contains additional modules that collect cross-cultural knowledge on key anthropological topics, making it an excellent companion to our other resources for research and teaching. In 2017, we released 3 new EHC modules, including: Altered States of Consciousness, Adolescence, and Childhood.

This time last year, we said that we were planning to additional teaching exercises in Teaching eHRAF. We’ve gone one step further and given our Teaching eHRAF pages a fresh redesign. It’s easier than ever to browse, sort, filter, search and download our eHRAF sample syllabi. Another exciting addition to Teaching eHRAF comes in the form of 10 new-format exercises, covering some of our most popular topics and complete with attractive and engaging PDFs that easy to download and share in the classroom.

We’ve had a great response to Teaching eHRAF from our members. Our announcement even turned out to be our top Facebook post for 2017. Speaking of Facebook, our post reach has increased 82% since this time last year. If you’re not following us yet, you can find our page here.

On the research side, one of the important activities at HRAF is conducting grant-supported cross-cultural study through the HRAF Advanced Research Center (hrafARC). Since 2014, researchers at HRAF have been hard at work on an inter-university and interdisciplinary funded by NSF. The project “Natural Hazards and Cultural Transformations,” has involved two main types of comparisons–a worldwide cross-cultural comparison using ethnographic and climatological data, and a diachronic archaeological comparison of twelve traditions before and after major severe climate events.

Our project is testing the general hypothesis that societies in hazard-prone environments will have adapted their cultural practices in similar ways. The cultural practices we have been examining range from diet and subsistence diversity, property systems, food and labor sharing, political economy, and general cultural “tightness” (including more standardized clothing and adornment). Some preliminary results and links to publications are reported here.

Culture Updates

A popular annual request from members is for more information about how we are growing our culture collections in eHRAF. Here’s a brief summary of what cultures and traditions we have added or updated in the past year and what we’ll be including in eHRAF World Cultures or Archaeology and working on analyzing throughout 2018.

DatabaseAdded in 2017SampleAnticipated 2018Sample
eHRAF World CulturesAW11 KeralaAI04 Uyghur
NE09 HaidaSCCSAJ04 West Tibetans
NU07 Aztecs SCCSAM35 RhadeSCCS
SK06 ChoroteES13 British (1603-1714)
ES14 British (1485-1603)
FJ21 NubaSCCS
MP19 MaoSCCS
NF08 KutenaiSCCS
NR19 Southeast Salish
NT24 Mormons
OP04 KanakSCCS
OQ12 Mbau FijiiansSCCS
OR06 KiribatiSCCS
SP09 Karajá
SH06 Yaghan (updates)
eHRAF ArchaeologyAQ45 Mature IndusAQ30 South Asian Upper Paleolithic
W130 Early Paleo-IndianAQ73 South Indian Chalcolithic
AQ47 VedicAF40 Ordosian
AF45 Yellow River Early Neolithic
AF48 Yangshao (Middle-Upper Yellow River Middle Neolithic)

What to expect from HRAF in 2018

In addition to more cultures being added to our databases, we have exciting new developments in the pipeline for the eHRAF World Cultures and Archaeology in 2018. Most notably, stay tuned for further announcements this year towards a much-anticipated feature in eHRAF that will allow researchers to collect, save, and organize paragraphs and snippets from search results.

We’re working on more of our new-format teaching exercises with PDF downloads including some useful options to customize the contents for individual classroom needs, as well as more companion teaching exercises for upcoming Explaining Human Culture modules. Keep an eye out for our next blog post to find out more about the EHC topical modules and exercises that are being released next.

It was great to see you all at the AAA meeting in Washington, DC. We had a lot of interest and have been following-up with visitors who requested eHRAF trials for the spring. Be sure to get in touch if you’re interested. As always, we look forward to any feedback you have and hearing what you’d like to see from HRAF in the future. As a small, membership-based non-profit, we enjoy working closely with researchers, librarians, faculty and students while developing and improving our products and services.

Lastly, long-term members and readers of our blog will already be familiar with our Twitter and Facebook pages, but another new addition is our Instagram account where you can follow us for fun snippets and behind-the-scenes looks at HRAF life. Our social media will keep you in the loop, but should you want to really get first dibs on our latest announcements, take advantage of the option to sign up for the HRAF news mailing list from right here at hraf.yale.edu. Watch this space!

Thank you again to our members for your support and Happy 2018.