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Marjorie Myers Halpin was born on February 11, 1937 in Tampa, Florida. She received both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Anthropology from George Washington University in 1962 and 1965 respectively. Between 1963 and 1968, Halpin was employed as a docent and an instructor in anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. During this time, she was also a part-time lecturer at George Washington University. Halpin’s involvement as teacher and scholar at the University of British Columbia began in 1968 when she was hired as a sessional lecturer in the Anthropology Department. Her duties evolved to include part-time curating at the Museum of Anthropology at U.B.C. She received her Ph.D. from U.B.C. in 1973 and was hired for the position of Assistant Professor and Curator in the same year. Halpin was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor and Curator at U.B.C. in 1981 and remained in this position until the time of her death in 2000. She was also Acting Director of the Museum from 1983 to 1984.
As a professor in U.B.C.’s Anthropology Department, Halpin taught both lower and higher level anthropology courses. She also supervised the work of many Master’s and Ph.D.-level students and served as Chair and University Examiner for numerous Ph.D. students. As part of U.B.C.’s faculty, Halpin served on various committees including the Department Equity Committee, the Graduate Studies Committee and Green College’s Membership Committee. As scholar and writer, Halpin’s main interests were in Coast Tsimshian and Gitksan ethnology, museum anthropology, and the anthropology of art and ritual, which led her to produce many articles and essays on native art and culture. In addition, Halpin also gave presentations and public lectures at national and international conferences. She wrote two books, Totem Poles: An Illustrated Guide and Jack Shadbolt and the Coastal Indian Image, both of which were published as part of the Museum of Anthropology’s Museum Note Series. Halpin also edited and reviewed many publications within the anthropological field and contributed chapters to Canadian Encyclopedia, The Handbook of North American Indians and Consciousness and Inquiry, among many other publications. Her scholarly interests have also led to her involvement with electronic publications on Northwest Coast art, namely with CD-Roms and websites.
Halpin was an active member of numerous societies such as the Canadian Ethnology Society, the Canadian Museums Association and the Native Studies Art Association of Canada. She was also a member of the Tri-Council (MRC, SSHRC, NRC) Committee on Collections Documentation (2000), Chair of the Totem Pole Advisory Committee for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (1983-84) and Chair of the Committee on Museum Ethics for the Canadian Ethnology Society (1974-75). In addition to her duties as teacher, scholar and anthropologist, Halpin also took on the role of consultant for numerous private projects. Marjorie Halpin passed away in White Rock in 2000.