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Phillips Academy appoints director of R. S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology

Andover welcomes Ryan J. Wheeler, Florida’s chief archaeologist and pivotal protector of state’s natural and historical resources

July 12, 2012 — Phillips Academy Dean of Studies John E. Rogers has announced the appointment of Dr. Ryan J. Wheeler as director of the Academy’s Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology. He joins the museum after serving seven years as Florida’s State Archaeologist.

Wheeler is the eighth director of the 111-year-old museum, one of the nation’s major repositories of Native American archaeological collections. Previous Peabody Museum directors include archaeologists Warren King Moorehead, Scotty MacNeish, and, most recently, Malinda S. Blustain, who retired in June after overseeing the museum’s recent revitalization.

“Ryan brings a great breadth of experience, knowledge and field expertise to this role, as well as an impressive collaborative approach to problem solving,” said Rogers, who headed the committee charged with the nationwide search. “These qualities will serve him and the Andover community well as he works with museum staff and Academy faculty to build upon the innovative programs that play a vital and growing role in the Phillips Academy curricula.”

Since its founding in 1901, the Peabody Museum has played a seminal part in the field of modern-day archaeology; in recent years, however, it faced possible closure. In a move to save the iconic institution, the Academy changed the museum’s primary mission from that of research to one of teaching. The 2008 strategic shift transformed the once-shuttered building into a buzzing hive of activity, where students now have access to its resources and more than 50 “lesson units” integrated across the Academy’s curricula.

As Florida’s chief archaeologist, Wheeler played a pivotal role in the preservation of the state’s natural and historical resources. During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, he served as liaison to federal officials on behalf of the state’s Historic Preservation Office. Wheeler also oversaw the design and construction of Miami Circle Park in the city’s Downtown district, providing public access to a nationally significant archaeological site that had been saved from development through community efforts.

He has authored or coauthored more than 30 articles in a number of journals, including “American Antiquity” and the “Southeastern Archaeology,” and was editor of “The Florida Anthropologist.” He is also a noted speaker, presenting his research to the annual assembly of the Society for American Archaeology, as well as to the Geological Society of America.

Among his many duties required by his previous role, Wheeler worked closely with Florida’s Division of Historical Resources in managing more than 500,000 artifacts, most of which represent Native American and Spanish Colonial cultures and societies.

Wheeler is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. degree in anthropology. He now resides in Medford, Mass., with his wife and son.

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