Meet The Curators

Part of the Gold exhibition.

Gold was curated by the American Museum of Natural History scientist James D. Webster, Chair and Curator in the Division of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Charles Spencer, Curator in the Division of Anthropology at the Museum, acted as advisor.

James Webster

James D. Webster, Curator, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Chairman, Division of Physical Sciences

James D. Webster applies methods of geochemistry and petrology to study igneous rocks and ore samples to determine how volatile elements and compounds of water, fluorine, chlorine, sulfur, and carbon dioxide influence the formation of metallic ore deposits. Based on laboratory and field-based investigations, Dr. Webster is particularly interested in the role hot fluids play in transporting and depositing ore metals to create mineral deposits, and in how the violent escape of volatile compounds from magmas drives explosive volcanic eruptions. Specifically, he is interested in how these volatiles in magmas lead to volcanic eruptions at such sites as Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, and Augustine Volcano, Alaska. Dr. Webster studies the influence of volatiles on rock melting behavior, and on how and when fluids are released from magma. In his laboratory, molten rocks are reacted with volatile compounds to understand how hot fluids and magma interact in nature. He is an adjunct research scientist with Columbia University and is a member of various professional organizations including the Society of Economic Geologists and the Geochemical Society. He received his B.S. in geology from North Carolina State University in 1978, his M.S. in geochemistry from the Colorado School of Mines in 1981, and his Ph.D. in geology from Arizona State University in 1987. He served as a NATO post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh before joining the Museum in 1990. He served as co-curator for the design of the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. 


James Webster

A dazzling new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History explains the scientific, historical, cultural and financial significance of one of the world's most rare and highly prized metals.


Charles S. Spencer, Chairman and Curator, Division of Anthropology

Charles S. Spencer is a specialist on the origin of urban states in Mesoamerica, where he has been conducting fieldwork for more than 25 years. His focus is the Valley of Oaxaca and surrounding regions, a mountainous part of southern Mexico that is home to the Zapotec people. His latest work indicates that the ancient Zapotec achieved a number of cultural milestones before their counterparts did in other parts of Mesoamerica, contrary to previous views of the Oaxaca area as a cultural backwater. Dr. Spencer received a B.A. in anthropology from Rice University in 1972, an M.A. in 1976, and a Ph.D. in 1981, both in anthropology from the University of Michigan. He was an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut before joining the Museum in 1991 as Associate Curator in the Department of Anthropology. He became Curator in 1994. Dr. Spencer is also an adjunct associate professor of anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of The Cuicatlán Cañada and Monte Albán: A Study of Primary State Formation. With frequent collaborator Elsa M. Redmond, Dr. Spencer coauthored Archaeology of the Cañada de Cuicatlán, Oaxaca, as well as numerous journal articles. In 2006, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.