CSU Stanislaus Professor S. Steve Arounsack will serve as director of the Keck Visual Anthropology Lab.
CSU Stanislaus Professor S. Steve Arounsack will serve as director of the Keck Visual Anthropology Lab.

TURLOCK, Calif. — January 24, 2013 — California State University (CSU), Stanislaus, has received a $250,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to support the creation of the Keck Visual Anthropology Lab (KVAL), an undergraduate classroom and research lab for the production of culturally relevant, socially engaged media.

The Central Valley is home to a wide range of ethnicities with rich histories, but without preservation of the experiences and memories of elders, the region's cultural knowledge is in danger of being lost. Led by anthropology Professor S. Steve Arounsack, the lab will use a visual anthropological approach and will engage both the university and local communities to collect, document, analyze and disseminate cultural knowledge of the Valley.

"In so doing, we will enable our diverse student population to engage in cross-cultural filmmaking and ethnographic interviewing while exploring the interface between traditional research methods and new technologies," Arounsack said. "We will create a digital archive of cultural visual media, which can then become a resource for classroom instruction and future research."

The lab will employ a multidisciplinary approach to its goals, incorporating anthropology, art, communication studies and ethnic studies. The $250,000 grant will fund the project for three years, paying for new cameras and accessories, editing workstations, digitizing equipment, computer storage, faculty release time for research, and student and faculty travel for fieldwork.

It will be the only resource in the region providing both ethnographic and digital media training to undergraduate students, Arounsack said, and productions will be of broadcast quality and will be accessible through television, the Internet, film festivals and other mass media venues. The only other Northern California university programs engaging in visual anthropological activities are master's programs at San Francisco State and CSU Chico, he said.

"More than ever, visual media are ubiquitous, powerful avenues for instruction and awareness," Arounsack said. "This lab responds to those trends by offering a solid academic foundation by which to study and preserve the Central Valley's cultural heritage."

Arounsack, a CSU Stanislaus alumnus, has spent 15 years conducting similar research in Southeast Asia. In a recent project, he used Web-based maps, graphics and videos to educate undergraduates about secret bombings over Laos during the Vietnam War. He's also using smartphones and laptops to allow students in Turlock to learn nearly firsthand about Asian rituals.

Arounsack is joined on the project by anthropology Professor Richard H. Wallace, anthropology department chair and Professor Sari Miller-Antonio, and art Professor Jessica Gomula-Kruzic. Wallace has done extensive fieldwork in Brazil, as has Miller-Antonio in East Asia, Greece and France, while Gomula-Kruzic is experienced in digital media and recently opened a visual arts center in Modesto.

The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The foundation has become one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations, and it focuses primarily on science and engineering research, medical research and undergraduate education.