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R. Gwinn Vivian

R. Gwinn Vivian, Ph. D., was the Associate Director of the Arizona State Museum and an archaeologist who left behind major accomplishments in the field of Southwest archaeology.

Growing up as the son of an National Park Service archaeologist at Chaco Canyon, Gordon Vivian, Gwinn began his professional career at 7 years old by washing potsherds for his dad. By the time he was a teenager, he was conducting his own research projects at Chaco and later headed off to the University of New Mexico and University of Arizona to pursue degrees and a career in archaeology. He joined the staff at the Arizona State Museum (ASM) and founded the contract archaeology (CRMS) program, conducting research projects throughout Arizona. With a joint appointment in the Dept. of Anthropology, he was instrumental in the education and professional development of many, many archaeologists who have worked in the Southwest and across the country.

As the Associate Director of the Museum, he provided support for a large staff of research archaeologists and furthered the development of professional standards in collections management. He had a strong commitment to the public education role of the state museum and in the 1980s, supported that mission through the development and support of stronger exhibit and education programs through projects such as the Paths of Life exhibit, lecture series, expanded docent tours for school groups, and the Southwest Indian Art Fair.

Aside from his responsible and effective administrative efforts, Gwinn continued his Chaco Canyon research and publications. His 1990 book, The Chacoan Prehistory of the San Juan Basin was a landmark tour de force, summarizing a century of research, publication and culture history of possibly the most written-about prehistoric site in America. In his final days at ASM, he pursued his goal of public education by writing The Chaco Handbook: An Encyclopedic Guide for a popular audience. Just before his death, he completed a manuscript summarizing his life-long research on water use at Chaco Canyon, a controversial topic. While many of his colleagues may have disagreed with him on this subject, he was always respected and liked by all.

Dr. Vivian passed away in April, 2022.