Knights at the Museum

Alexander Lando, ’95
Museum Technician, Anthropology

The 500,000-plus objects in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology are the focus of Alex Lando’s professional passion. Join him for a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s vast inventory. 

  • Alex Lando studied anthropology as an undergraduate.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Alex Lando says that two undergraduate classes "cemented in me the idea that anthropology was something I could enjoy doing": Robert Blumenschine's class on "Faunal Analysis" and Carmel Schrire's class on "Colonial Archaeology."

  • Mexican archaeology artifact storage.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Lando helps ensure that everything from 12th-century Peruvian dolls to 19th-century Zuni rugs is "accounted for and in good condition for retrieval—primarily for research, loans, or repatriation." Here he returns Mexican archaeology artifacts to storage. The museum's Hall of Mexico and Central America displays figurines, pottery, jewelry, and more from Mayan, Olmec, Aztec, and other cultures.

  • Hall of African Peoples.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Lando's job can be "as simple as retrieving items from storage for new exhibits or as complex as having to rehouse whole collections into updated storage." Above is the Hall of African Peoples where masks, musical instruments, farming tools, religious idols, ceremonial costumes, and more are on view from the world's longest-human-inhabited continent.

  • Proper storage techniques preserve specimens.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    For 12 years, Lando has been part of a 30-year effort to update museum storage, bringing it up to "current standards (if not beyond) by innovative ideas and means." Factors affecting artifact stability include temperature, light levels, humidity, mold, insects, and pollution from industrial sources like paint.

  • Inventorying a tray of arrowheads from North America.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Lando inventories a tray of arrowheads from North America. Archaeological specimens such as stone arrowheads are the least subject to decomposition because they typically are made from inorganic materials, rocks for instance, that hold up well against the ravages of time.

  • Leading a tour of storage areas for visiting museum professionals.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Lando says that as an undergraduate, he "never focused on any one particular area of anthropology, keeping my options open and being more of a jack-of-all-trades." His versatility has made him a well-rounded staffer with an overall sense of the anthropology collections and their storage—handy knowledge as he gives a tour of a bust and cast storeroom to visiting museum professionals.

  • Alex Lando in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
    Knights at the American Museum of Natural History

    Gleaned from his own Rutgers experience, Lando's advice to student up-and-comers is this: "Take advantage of all classes offered. Do an internship if available. Make yourself known to your professors. Get involved." Photos 1 and 7 by John Emerson. Photos 2, 4, 5, 6 courtesy Alexander Lando. Photo 3 courtesy American Museum of Natural History.

  • Alex Lando studied anthropology as an undergraduate.
    1/7
  • Mexican archaeology artifact storage.
    2/7
  • Hall of African Peoples.
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  • Proper storage techniques preserve specimens.
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  • Inventorying a tray of arrowheads from North America.
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  • Leading a tour of storage areas for visiting museum professionals.
    6/7
  • Alex Lando in the American Museum of Natural History Roosevelt Rotunda.
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