The museum curator, the multi-tasker.

He is an archaeology professor, a researcher, a fund raiser, a Public Relations Officer, an excavator of historical sites in East Timor, a Bahasa Indonesia  translator, a mentor for his graduate students, an honors advisor with the Department of Anthropology and – occasionally — a part-time nanny.

On top of all that, he is also the curator of the Burke Museum.

His typical day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m., with him still on his computer at home. After breakfast, he drives his daughter to her nanny’s home at Shoreline, before going to work. In his office, he responds to emails, makes phone calls, and briskly walks over to his lab in the Burke Museum.

Nearing his lunch hour, he hurries back to his office and scans a graduate student’s dissertation proposal before the student arrives for consultation.

At noon, it is still not lunch yet. He scans through the applications for a fellowship to the department before meeting the selection committee. The multi-tasker grabs lunch from the HUB and eats it at his desk. One hand shoving food into his mouth, the other typing away. He is racing against time to complete his conference paper due in three weeks.

He makes arrangements for his Indonesian co-author of the paper to fly here next week for a meeting. During that short lunch break, he also tries to work out the syllabus for his spring class on the Archaeology of War.

He finishes his last bite and heaves a sigh of relief. But is not the end. He rushes to meet a collaborator for a new project’s web site that will educate the public about how Seattle’s landscape has altered in the last 10,000 years.

The time now is 2:30 p.m. He is in the midst of an interview with an Information Science graduate student on the technical aspects of being a curator. He makes time for people who want to learn more about what he is doing.

At 4 p.m., he attends the monthly curators meeting at the Burke.

And just when you think the working hours are over at dusk, he goes for a dinner and a maritime history lecture at South Lake Union, hoping to establish connections with people involved in the future Lake Union Shipwreck survey. He drives home at 9 and continues to check his emails.

Meet Peter Lape, the 40-year-old curator of Archaeology at the Burke Museum and professor at the University of Washington Department of Anthropology whose life is so packed he hardly has time to breathe. Despite all this, he says he totally loves his job.

“I’m the boss!” he says, referring to the amount of independence he gets in his research work. Besides that, he loves teaching archaeology.

“When students are engaged, it keeps my energy alive,” says Peter.

Peter’s interest in archaeology, in particularly settlements and migration, manifested when he was young. He grew up in a rural area in New Hampshire. As a kid, he and his friends would play in the woods and imagined themselves as pioneers setting up villages with trade systems. His interest in Indonesia and East Timor, countries made up of many islands, developed from his childhood boating days.

Despite his childhood interests, Peter did not pursue a degree in archaeology, but a physics degree from the University of New Hampshire.

“I like solving puzzles, using visual elements to answer questions, but it lacked the human touch,” says Peter.

His first career was as an engineer. ”I hated being an engineer,” he says, his eyebrows buckling into a frown.

After a year, he quit and worked in a science museum where he designed educational programs for the public. It was during his museum stint that he developed his interest in archaeology and teaching too. He tested the water by taking an elective in archaeology while he was pursuing his masters. On the first day of class, he knew he had hit the bull’s eye.

“Archaeology combined what I like, physics, people, traveling, outdoors and teaching,” said Peter, his eyes glistening with excitement as he recalled the moment. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a Master’s in Museum Studies in 1995 and went on to pursue his doctorate in Anthropology at Brown University.

Despite coming from a physics background, Peter loves writing and that helped him ace his graduate education and win his wife’s heart. In college, he started a literary magazine called Cake with two friends. They published anything they liked and sold it for six dollars. His wife, of Native American and Filipino heritage, came across his magazine in Boston and was impressed by it. One day, by sheer coincidence, they took a class together in college and she recognized him.

“Aren’t you the guy behind Cake?” she asked. And they hit it off well. The couple married and have a 3 1/2-year-old daughter named Isabel. Cake, however, died after two issues.

Peter’s research for his Ph.D on Islam and migration brought him to Banda, Indonesia, where he lived for two years. However, when a conflict between the Christians and the Muslims broke out in 1998, Peter was forced to leave. An opportunity to continue research at East Timor came and he grabbed it.

“East Timor is untouched by any archaeologists as it has been ravaged by years of war against Indonesia for independence. Since I am always interested to explore different places, I went for it.” says Peter.

He made the effort to learn Bahasa Indonesia, the language spoken in East Timor and Indonesia, at the Arizona State University in 1996 for two months and acted as a translator between the villagers and the American excavation teams.

His connection to East Timor and Indonesia is deeply rooted. He goes there once a year and has conducted two field schools, in which American students work alongside Indonesian students from the Gadjah Mandd University of Yokjakarta on excavation sites.

The experiences in the field schools have always been eventful. Once the team was excavating a site in East Timor and needed to exhume some human remains. It was a huge debate among the villagers. The village chief gave the green light but Peter was still uncertain.

“I was nervous, I knew some people were upset.”

After the project, the team drove out of the village but was stopped by the chief.

“I want everyone to come out,” the chief said in Bahasa Indonesia. Peter started to get worried. The team followed the chief and discovered a big feast awaiting them. They were the guests of honor.

“All tensions were resolved, and this indicated that the people trusted us,” Peter says.

Communication is the key. “Even though I am an archaeologist, I must ask the people what their concerns are and tell them what we are doing all the time.”

And communication skills are also essential for Peter’s fund-raising efforts for the Burke. Peter is also the Public Relations Officer for Burke’s projects. He often meets wealthy businesspeople for dinner to coax them into donating.

“It’s something I don’t like to do because I’m shy. But funding for research and securing exhibits come from them,” Peter laments.

“That is something people do not know about museum curators. They associate our job with dinosaurs fossils.” Blame it on the movie “Jurassic Park”.

Besides entertaining wealthy businesspeople, there are other aspects of his job that irks him.

He hates writing journal articles on his research findings. “It’s so painful! I have to force myself to sit down and write it and the worse thing is, I am a procrastinator.”

Laura Phillips, an archaeology collections manager who works under Peter, agrees. “We had a small and stupid museum budget task due the next day, and he was annoyed about having to do it. He decided to go sailing that afternoon! He ended up burning the midnight oil.”
Because of the multiple jobs he juggles, Peter admits that his family time suffered. He used to work till late at night, but all this changed when his daughter came.

“I don’t work on weekends anymore, but it is hard because my job demands 50-60 hours per week. And I love all my projects and work so much I don’t want to give up any, well, except for the meetings,” he quips.

But Peter injects humor into his meetings to make the mundane come alive. Describes Laura: “We have group meetings once a week during which he listens to our activity reports, then develops a summary that is humorous and concise. These summaries make us seem like we are working as a tight, happy team even though we mostly work on projects individually.”

Of all the tasks under his belt, Peter finds teaching one of the most challenging. “I can’t blow it,” he said. “I have to be 100 percent prepared and fully engaged as students depend on me for information and pay for me to do a good job.” His efforts at teaching pay off when students get an average of 3.0 for his classes.

And that’s because Peter is a demanding instructor. Emily Peterson, a graduate student who took several classes under him, says Peter is “not an easy grader and always gave plenty of readings. But he is not unreasonable.”

Peter encourages his students to be independent thinkers too, says Peterson. “He is focused on helping students develop their own ideas and opinions through discussions instead of lectures.”

And Peter has been an inspiring role model to his students too. Peterson, who describes herself as shy, had doubts about succeeding as many outstanding professors and researchers are extroverts.  But when she observes how a shy Peter, who seems a little uncomfortable being in front of the class, has succeeded in academia, “It gives me hope,” she says.

Peter is very established and recognized in his industry, with 19 publications in his name, 13 research grants and fellowships and won three awards for his teaching programs.

But the most challenging task comes from being a father. His work and hobbies have to be secondary to his daughter’s needs.

“Ring!” the antique phone in the kitchen rang on a cloudy Monday morning. It was Isabel’s nanny. Her voice sounded raspy and hoarse.

“I’m sorry but I can’t baby-sit Isabel today–I’m down with a flu,” she said.

Peter rushed to make phone calls and shoot emails to cancel appointments made that day. He was going to be a part-time nanny.

His weekends are devoted to his “precious princess”. Last Saturday, he took her sledding in the mountains. His daughter tags along when he has dinner with his friends in the evening. On Sunday, he cleans the house and goes to the beach. Only when his “princess” takes a nap does he have time to work on restoring his 1972 BMW car and maintain his wood sailboat.

Isabel is always on his mind. When he misses her while at work, he gazed at her photos pasted on the wall above his computer. Isabel has dark skin–inherited from her mother–black hair, and a bright smile.

And beside Isabel’s photos are photos from Peter’s time in Indonesia. His office is decorated with rugs from Indonesia. One of them is a gift from his wife and is a traditional cloth that symbolizes love. His bookshelf is loaded with books on the archaeology of Indonesia. On the wall near the entrance hang two portraits of early humans, with big noses, dark skin, and long black hair.

“I am interested in how early humans looked, and how westerners have depicted foreigners in the past,” he explains as he gives me a tour around his office.

His appreciation for archaeology extends to natural history. “When I drive down the Viaduct, I am always amazed at the changes that happened and try to imagine the earthquake that dropped Seattle 35 feet and a tsunami that ate Whidbey Island,” he says. “ I will be praying, please, don’t let that happen now,” he said with a chuckle.

Peter does not abide by the term, “Once a curator, always a curator”. He intends to be a curator for only 10 years, and is in his eighth year. He was a curator at the Burke since 2000 after obtaining his doctorate.

“I want to become a boat builder, a journalist, or open a restaurant,” Peter says, “I need change in my life to stay interested and engaged.”

But right now, Peter remains passionate about his job.

As the first rays from the sun peek through the horizon, Peter is up on his feet once again, ready to conquer the tsunami of tasks before him. But he braves through it with a smile. His work attitude could perhaps be best described by this phrase: “Atasan saya. Saya cinta pekerjaanmu.”(Bahasa Indonesia: I am the boss. I totally love my job!)


Student Name:    ______Faith____________ Date: __March 10, 2008__Grade: __99__

Grade:     Each of the following is worth 10 points for your total grade of 100.

1.Peer review: Did the article receive a peer review prior to its being turning in?    10

2. Deadline: Was the article turned in the day it was due?   10

3. Appropriate length: Is the article the required word count?   10

4. Format: Are the lead paragraphs sufficiently interesting to draw in readers? Are body paragraphs well organized around a central idea? Do the concluding paragraph(s) end with a provocative idea or other special treatment?     See notes in text regarding lede.  8   10

5. Logic and support: Are all assertions and claims presented in the article supported with facts? Are all sources of information cited? Is the information credible? 10

6. Type of story: Is the article written in feature style, as opposed to straight news style? Does the content conform to the definition of a feature story? Is there a strong human-interest element present?   10

7. Sufficient details: Are there enough details to cover the questions of Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? (5 Ws and 1 H) Do you answer all the basic questions that a reader might have?  You’ve done a good job detailing his life, his work and his passions. What about his accomplishments – has he won any awards, been noted anywhere special? A google search might be able to answer this – or perhaps the Burke has his biography posted somewhere.  Also, how long has he been curator of the Burke; did he have another curator job before this one? 7  9

8. Original and specific information: Does the writer use evocative details and facts to share a full (“virtual reality”) experience with readers? Is this information widely available, or is the information unique and interesting?   10

9. Social value, tone and reader interest: Do you provide readers with timely, interesting, valuable and well-focused information?     Good topic.   10

10. Editing: Grammar mechanics and sentence syntax    (see notes in text for specifics)   6   10

______ Sentence Variety                 __x__Verb Tenses                   ______  comma (,)
______ Subjunctive Mood              ______ Subject-Verb Agreement             ______ colon (:)
______ Coordinate (Compound)             ______ Possessives                      _____semicolon (;)
______ Subordinate (Complex)             ______ Singular/Plural                   __x___ period (.)
______ Use of Lists                 ______ Capitalization                   ______ quotations
______ Imperative                 ______ Lower Case                              (” “)
______ Question Form                 ______ Modifiers (misplaced/dangling) _____ampersand (&)
______ Parallelism in Construction             ______ Number Use                _____ quote within a
______ Fragments                  __x___ Article Use                   quotation
__x___ Run-Ons / Comma Splice              ______ Pronoun:                                (” ‘ ‘ “)
__x___ Wordiness                   ______ Object Pronoun             ______ percentage (%)
______ Double Negative                  ______ Participle Form             ______ asterisk use (*)
______ Shifts in Point of View             __x__ Preposition Use             ______ degree/temp.
______ Descriptive Clause             _____ Pronoun Reference          ______ apostrophe (‘)
______ Use of Cliché                 ______ Gender-Biased Language        ______ (parenthesis)

WORD USE:                     ______ Verbs: Active/PassiveUse       ______ a.m./p.m.
______ Underlining/Italicizing             ______ Missing Object             ______dash (–)
__x___ Diction Level/Word Choice         ______ Comparative             ______ hyphen (-)
__x___ Spelling                     ______ Superlative             ______ exclamation (!)
______ Adjective Use             ______ question mark
______ Conjunctions             ______ $ sign
______ Adverb Use             ______ Abbreviation


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