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Like most things these days, this year’s Anthropology Day (AnthroDay) celebration on February 18, pivoted to a virtual experience. In preparation, we upgraded the AnthroDay resources on our website, complete with customized Zoom backgrounds, and asked everyone to join us in sharing our love for the discipline. The result was a remarkable array of imaginative outreach and celebratory events from anthropology clubs, departments, museums, and organizations from all around the world.

Some 244 official participants registered for Anthropology Day this year, representing 15 countries. Students from several African countries participated in partnership with the Association for the Anthropology of Social Change and Development (APAD). The AnthroDay matchmaking program paired four K–12 schools with an anthropology club or department, and the total number of K–12 participant institutions increased from four in 2020 to eighteen this year.

Screenshot of a virtual space including chairs, tables, avatars, and a welcome banner

Image description: In the foreground of the virtual reality image gray chairs and two black round tables sit in a white room. Eleven avatars stand in front of a giant computer screen billboard showing a purple, black, blue, and pink-toned cityscape. The white text on a pink banner above the cityscape reads, “Welcome to AnthroDay2021.”
Caption: Promotional image for San Diego State University’s Anthropology Graduate Student Association VR AnthroDay event.
Anthropology Graduate Student Association, San Diego State University

Choose your own adventure

As you may have guessed, virtual lectures reigned supreme. Universities and clubs organized lectures and symposia covering a wide range of topics. Montgomery College Anthropology Department held a three-part lecture series on using DNA to trace human migration, the value of anthropology in business, and language and identity. AAA Executive Board member, Elizabeth Briody, was the featured guest speaker at the University of Louisiana Lafayette event where she examined how anthropological drawing is used as a tool to conceptualize culture. The Greensboro History Museum in North Carolina held a free event with its museum director, Carol Ghiorsi Hart, about the museum’s initiatives and the personal, professional, and community intersections of anthropology, history, and folklore. Italy’s AnthroDay Milano went big this year. Their three-day event saw more than 3,000 attendees participating in approximately 40 meetings and workshops on topics like new media, climate change, and art.

Virtual escape rooms were also a hit this year. Brown University’s Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology asked individuals to crack codes and solve puzzles to “Escape the Haffenreffer. The department of anthropology at Idaho State University took participants through an elaborate game to solve the “Mystery of the Misplaced Mummy.” Minnesota State University, Mankato, held a virtual scavenger hunt populated with information from their classes and concluded with a guest speaker discussing the pandemic and race. The nonprofit organization, Anthropology Graduate Student Association (AGSA), spent the day in virtual reality with their VR AnthroDay 2021 event. This free event allowed participants to visit “rooms” and interact with fellow attendees.

Podcast collaborations

In a first, the AAA partnered with its podcast library collaborators on five special AnthroDay episodes, some of which featured interviews with AAA leaders. Zora’s Daughters chatted with ABA president, Riché J. Daniel Barnes, and The Archaeology Show featured an interview with AAA Executive Board member, Kathryn Sampeck. That Anthro Podcast spoke with several guests about their love of anthropology. And, finally, The Dirt Podcast went live for a special taping of their podcast and took listeners on a tour of cave sites that revolutionized paleoanthropology.

Screenshot of a virtual space including various human-shaped avatars

Image description: A screengrab of the Anthropology Graduate Student Association VR AnthroDay event. Five avatars stand in a virtual waiting room. In the background a sign reads, “Boardroom.” There is a red, yellow, blue, and purple poster titled “The Friends of Anthropology” on the left wall among other wall décor, such as plants and posters. Next to that, in the top left corner is a list of game users. A user chat box is in the bottom left corner.
Caption: Attendees at San Diego State University’s Anthropology Graduate Student Association VR AnthroDay event catch up in the virtual hallway.
Anthropology Graduate Student Association, San Diego State University


Social media was alight with #AnthroDay. Our Twitter followers enjoyed engaging with our posts throughout the day. The most popular post asked, “Where did you study #anthropology? Represent your alma mater in the comments. Bonus points for a (selfie emoji)! #AnthroDay.” Followers were quick to respond with photos from the field, graduation photos, and selfies of them wearing their college merchandise. On Instagram, individuals took the opportunity to post about their love of anthropology and share the day’s activities. Search #AnthroDay on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to see the hundreds of inspirational posts from fellow anthropologists.

Contests and exclusive offers

Our platinum Anthropology Day sponsor, Wiley, funded two contests for the public. Our social media contest asked our followers on Twitter and Facebook, “How does anthropology impact our everyday lives?” Sierra Malis from Mississippi State University took first place and won a $200 gift card for her video that featured several friends in a fun montage. Representing the University of New Hampshire, Sarah Jarrar was our runner-up and received a $100 gift card for her video referencing the new normal of wearing masks. The K–12 raffle prize, a $200 gift card, went to Mission Bay High School in San Diego, California. Contributing sponsor, RAI Film Festival 2021, generously offered this year’s official participants a 20 percent discount on a full festival pass.

Your enthusiasm and dedication for the discipline proved essential to executing a one-of-a-kind Anthropology Day. What will you plan for Anthropology Day 2022?

Gabrielle Dunkley is the AAA’s communications and marketing manager

Cite as: Dunkley, Gabrielle. 2021. “AnthroDay Goes Virtual.” Anthropology News website, April 14, 2021.