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Around the World in 70 Days

Circumnavigator award to send undergrad around the globe

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University junior Catherine Althaus will circle the globe this summer exploring the ways in which museums in Australia, Israel, Peru, France and other nations treat human remains that are part of their collections.

The winner of a $9,000 travel study award from Northwestern and the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, Althaus interned at The Field Museum in Chicago when she first became interested in how museums store and display mummies and human remains.

Traveling to some of the world's most prestigious institutions, Althaus, a biological anthropology major, hopes to discover whether and how museums balance scientific interests with potentially competing claims of ownership, indigenous cultural practices and shortages of funds and space.

“Many criticize the handling of the human specimens in museums, claiming that they objectify the bones conceptually for research and display,” Althaus wrote in the proposal she submitted for the Circumnavigators grant. “In reality, this issue is not so clear cut.” 

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the Circumnavigator Travel-Study Award funds a 10-week global summer research trip and stipulates that its winner visits at least five different countries (excluding U.S. and Canada) on at least three different continents. They must travel alone and circle the globe.

Althaus’ parents have given their full endorsement to their daughter’s trip.

“We look forward to Catherine sharing her global experiences with us and seeing the world through her eyes,” said her parents, in a statement.

Last summer, Northwestern senior and Medill student Kevin Short traveled to Tanzania, Ukraine, Turkey, New Zealand, Brazil and other nations to investigate the rise of digital technologies and the ways they promote government accountability. Althaus is an undergraduate in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. 

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