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Weinberg junior to travel to eight countries this summer as winner of Circumnavigator Grant

Courtesy of Catherine Althaus

Catherine Althaus poses in the mountains of Asturias, Spain, last summer. The Weinberg junior will travel to eight countries on four different continents this summer to study museums' treatment of human remains as the winner of the Circumnavigator Travel-Study Award.

Jillian Sandler, Campus Editor

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Weinberg junior Catherine Althaus will travel the globe this summer to study the treatment of human remains in museums as the winner of this year’s Circumnavigator Travel-Study Grant.

The $9,000 grant, jointly funded by Northwestern and the Chicago chapter of the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, will fund Althaus’ 10-week trip. According to a University release published Thursday, the grant stipulates that the winner must travel alone and circle the globe.

Althaus said the grant requires the winner to travel to at least five countries on three different continents. Her current itinerary will take her to eight countries on four different continents: England, France, Spain, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Peru and Chile.

Althaus, who is studying biological anthropology, said she became interested in museums’ practices regarding collections of human remains after interning at The Field Museum as part of the Chicago Field Studies program in the fall.

“I fell in love with the museum and I could see myself having a career in museums in the future, and I really wanted to see how such institutions operate around the world,” she said.

She said she intends to study how museums around the world engage in making scientific progress while also appealing to the needs of the communities they serve.

“Through direct examinations of the human specimen collections and interviews with museum staff, I hope to gather observations of how museums attempt to advance science while balancing the demands of the surrounding community,” she said.

According to the release, Althaus wrote in her proposal that she intends to examine how museums handle treatment of human remains collections in the face of “potentially competing claims of ownership, indigenous cultural practices and shortages of funds and space.”

Althaus said she is currently in the process of booking flights and making housing arrangements for her travels. She said she will either stay in hostels or connect with NU alumni, Circumnavigators Club members or family friends to set up lodging for the lowest possible price.

This trip will mark Althaus’ second time leaving the United States. Her first trip abroad was last summer. She visited Leon, Spain as part of a study abroad program sponsored by the Summer Institute of Hispanic Studies. Althaus researched the program herself and had it approved by NU’s Study Abroad Office.

Last year’s Circumnavigator Grant was given to Medill senior Kevin Short. Short traveled to Tanzania, Ukraine, Jordan, India, New Zealand and Brazil to study the digital technologies’ role in government.

Short called the experience “a whirlwind and a rush.”

“There’s no chaperone,” he said. “You have limited contact with organizations. You have a lot of personal sovereignty, which is really challenging but really fulfilling at the end of the day.”

Althaus said she is excited by the opportunity to take in the customs of various other parts of the world.

“I really wanted to get out of the United States and experience other cultures,” she said.