“June 8, 2009

Recommendation of Amanda D. Danning,

To whom it may concern,

In February 2009 the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) opened a forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology exhibition entitled Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th – century Chesapeake.

9 PHOTO FROM nmnh)

This exhibition features facial reconstructions completed by experienced forensic sculptors.  Amanda Danning produced two exceptional bust sculptures of 1607 Jamestown colonists for the exhibition.

Based on this experience and other positive interactions, I am pleased to submit this acknowledgement of Ms. Danning’s ability and training as a highly skilled reconstructive sculptor.

(photo or video of amanda at work on this project)

Ms. Danning and I first collaborated in 2005 on a facial reconstruction of an ancient skeleton (9,700 RC yr. B.P.) discovered in the Horn Rock Shelter, Bosque County, Texas.

The skull was reconstructed for an exhibition featuring the discoveries of this important archaeological site. We communicated for over 40 hours and exchanged numerous digital photos during this project.

Amanda is knowledgeable of craniofacial anatomy, quick to grasp the intricacies of anthropological reconstructive sculpting, and timely in the execution of her work.

I saw the finalized sculpture of the Horn Rock Shelter Paleoamerican when I attended the premier of the exhibition. Her high quality work portrayed a level of detail and vitality that exceeded my expectations, far surpassing digital photographs viewed during the  production phase.

(photo of horn rock …)

Confident that Amanda is one of the most talented sculptors available, I asked her to work with the NMNH again to reconstruct a 1607 James Fort colonist during the 2007 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. This activity was a prelude to the sculptures needed for the Written In Bone exhibition scheduled to open in February 2009. Amanda’s work at the Folk Life Festival over a two week period was undertaken as an educational event that allowed direct public interaction while she worked on a reconstruction.

Amanda again demonstrated her talent as a sculptor, along with remarkable patience in answering questions from a continuous stream of interested onlookers.

Her booth, one of 240 in the festival, was one of the top two most visited exhibits in the festival.

(photo of Amanda in that booth at he festival)

Given the success of this engagement, I asked her to return in November 2007 to complete the reconstruction of another Jamestown colonist, Captain Bartholmew Gosnold. Her anatomically correct sculpture serves as a powerful teaching tool that helps explain what the forensic anthropologist can help interpret and bring the past to life for so many people.”

Next fall, Amanda will return to Washington, D.C. to complete another reconstruction scheduled as a special event for the “Written in Bone” exhibit. I look forward to continued interaction with her. She is a skilled artist and a pleasure to work with. Any organization that decides to employ Mrs. Danning will quickly discover that they have engaged an exceptional artist, sculptor, and exhibit designer.

Cordially yours,

Douglas W. Owsley

Division Head for Physical Anthropology

National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Institution

Washington, D.C. 20560

Ph. 202-633-1989

(photo of the smithsonian)


“For the past four years Amanda Danning has been entertaining visitors to the Sam Houston Museum in Huntsville with her amazing facial reconstruction.

The Sam Houston Museum is home to the unique collection of San Jacinto Battlefield artifacts and three skulls of Mexican soldiers recovered from the Battlefield.

(photo of Sam Houston museum)

From her perch in the Rotunda of the 1936 Centennial Museum, Amanda deftly crafts the faces of these unfortunate warriors while discussing her techniques with children, adults and Sam Houston State University students.

She may be a member of international committees and featured in numerous scientific papers and books. But to us, she is a local, small town Texas girl with lots of interesting things to impart to folks of all ages. We look forward to additional magic in the Rotunda.”

Sandra E. Rogers July 2014
Collections Registrar, Sam Houston Memorial Museum, Huntsville, Texas
Archeological Steward, Texas Historical Commission


“Dear Amanda,
You are a force of Nature with your knowledge, passion, talent and creativity. The blending of artist and scientist is fascinating and your career is amazing.

Force of Nature
Force of Nature

Reconstructing faces from skulls seems like an impossible task, but you explained it so well that even the lay mind can get an inkling of your techniques. …Thanks for staying longer than just one hour. Our crowd demanded it. I didn’t dare cut you off or they would have had my head.”

Best Regards,
Clair B. Gunnels




nf“Her anatomically correct sculptures serve as powerful teaching tools that help explain what the forensic anthropologist can discover from the skeleton. It is rare to find someone whose work can help interpret and bring the past to life for so many people.”

Dr. Douglas Owsley
Division Head of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institute
Washington, DC

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