Skip to main content

Emma Verstraete

Post-Doctoral Associate, University of Minnesota


My educational and professional experiences have focused on understanding data management, public perceptions, and the role of medicine in society. My undergraduate degree is in Anthropology from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri with an emphasis on archaeology and a minor in psychology. While studying at Lindenwood I worked in the campus archaeology laboratory, completing preliminary analysis and curation on artifacts from a variety of historic archaeological sites in the St. Louis area, including early French colonial settlements.

In 2014 I was the recipient of the Jesse Wrench Memorial Grant from the Missouri Archaeological Society, allowing me the opportunity to conduct preliminary research and archaeology survey on a farmstead in southwest Missouri. From 2015-2016 I acted as the site manager for the on-campus student-run archaeological excavation. I also interned for the St. Louis branch of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), where I created and maintained digital records libraries and document metadata as part of an ongoing project to digitize materials from research divisions across the St. Louis branch. I also received training to work with archaeological collections being rehoused while working at USACE.

Upon arriving at Illinois I have focused my efforts on collections and data management in addition to my dissertation research on the history of medicine in Springfield, Illinois. In addition to my own research I have pursued opportunities to expand my teaching and pedagogical training, including earning two teaching certifications from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. I also have collaborated with others to build a more inclusive anthropology through proactive inclusion of persons with disabilities, avocational archaeologists, and students from other disciplines.

I earned my doctorate in Anthropology in 2022. 

Research Interests

Historical archaeology, collections based research, patent medicine, history of medicine, history of pharmacy, consumer studies, science and technology studies, bottle analysis, urbanism, Illinois, data analysis

Research Description

I study patent medicine and consumer studies, particularly in Springfield Illinois. I focus my questions on how the rise of advertising and 'the death of expertise' led to the booming patent medicine market during the Gilded Age and what type of impact culture and tradition had on consumer choice. By using a large-scale data-based analysis of information from multiple archaeological sites in Springfield, Illinois, I closely examine how members of that community kept pace with national and global trends in medicine and advertising. This research acknowledges the need for a greater understanding of how advertisements and consumer trends impact the purchase of medicine both in past and present contexts.

My research focuses on understanding how the social dynamics within the town, market structures, and consumer preferences helped to shape the transformation of healthcare. My project utilizes archaeological artifact assemblages of Springfield, Illinois at a series of household sites across the city. Data from eight households across three major archaeological excavation sites throughout the city includes Polish, German, Irish, and Portuguese immigrants, data from lower- and upper-class areas, and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site (LHNHS), including data from the Lincoln house itself. My analyses also address the extent to which need and access drive consumer perceptions and purchasing choices, and how ideas about brand efficacy, the failings of healthcare, traditional folk cures, and marketing impact the purchasing process.


PhD, Anthropology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.     

B.A., Anthropology (Honors). Lindenwood University, St. Charles, Missouri


2021 Summer Block Grant Fellowship to support research to build a guide on syllabi decolonization; University of Illinois, Department of Anthropology

2021 Summer Research Funding; University of Illinois, Department of Anthropology

2018 Summer Research Travel Funding; University of Illinois, Department of Anthropology

2015 Jesse Wrench Memorial Grant; Missouri Archaeological Society

Awards and Honors

2021 Forest T. Baker Award for American Anthropology; University of Illinois, Department of Anthropology

2020 UIUC Department of Anthropology nominee for the Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

2019 UIUC List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent

2019 Shimkin Prize for Graduate Student Paper; University of Illinois, Department of Anthropology

Courses Taught

Instructor of Record

ANTH 374: The Anthropology of Science and Technology (Spring 2021)

ANTH 379: Medical Anthropology (Spring 2019)

Teaching Assistant and Section Leader

ANTH 220: Introduction to Archaeology (Fall 2020, Fall 2021)

ANTH 399: Virtual Reality Archaeology (Fall 2019)

Teaching Assistant/Grader

ANTH 106: Historical Archaeology of the Americas (Spring 2020)

ANTH 180: The Archaeology of Death (Fall 2017 and Fall 2018)

ANTH 103: Anthropology in a Changing World (Fall 2016 and Spring 2017)