Christina Elson is a recognized expert in Anthropology with a PhD degree from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. Her professional interests are strengthening communication between science and the media, cultural diplomacy and cultural heritage issues, and the role technology can play in science outreach.
Dr. Elson began her career in 1999 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York working as researcher and curator. Her fieldwork on the cultures of Mexico and Peru has been supported with funding from the National Science Foundation and other granting agencies and she has published papers in journals including Ethnohistory, Ancient Mesoamerica, and Journal of Field Archaeology. One theoretical research interest is defining the role of intermediate elites–people situated between rulers and commoners–in ancient states. Dr. Elson’s investigation of this topic include directing excavations at a 5th to 7th century Zapotec city in Oaxaca, Mexico, and co-editing a book called Intermediate Elite in Pre-Columbian States and Empires.
As a curator, Dr. Elson is well-versed in the ethics of repatriation, collecting, and cultural heritage management. She has been actively involved in collections management and exhibition development. At the American Museum of Natural History she collaborated on exhibits including Chocolate and Aztec and designed and produced a virtual exhibition of the Mexico and Central American Hall. Modern collections management includes developing preservation and access policies for web-accessible digital collections that facilitate off-site and comparative analysis. At the American Museum of Natural History, Dr. Elson created a web-accessible digital library with multiple search interfaces for Mesoamerican archaeology collections and designed a Thesaurus interface to the anthropology collections database. She invested in science education by serving as a content developer for award-winning education resources such as ‘Ology produced through the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology.
In 2006, Dr. Elson began working with National Geographic Magazine as their in-house anthropology expert, working closely with writers, artists, and photographers in an editorial capacity during the story production process. To evaluate projects for story potential, Dr. Elson traveled internationally to meet researchers in the field and to facilitate clear, precise, and timely communication with cultural heritage officials. Her investigations generated many National Geographic Magazine feature stories profiling work in countries including Cuba, Laos, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Elson recently finished a key contribution to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology. She is co-curating Heavenly Jade of the Maya with Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli. Dr. Elson also is pleased to have recently joined the board of the Allegany Museum, a growing regional museum and a key component of the economic revitalization of Cumberland and Allegany County. She is working with other board members and staff to help the museum reach AAM accreditation.