Mathers Museum to host new summer institute on 'Museums at the Crossroads'

  • April 27, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new international summer institute focused on museums and the changing world will be hosted by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. "Museums at the Crossroads: Local Encounters, Global Knowledge," May 14 to 21, will bring together leading museum professionals; scholars of social and cultural theory and museum practice; and Indiana University Bloomington scholars, graduate students and staff.

Funded by IU's College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Global and International Studies, "Museums at the Crossroads" is the first institute of its kind to explore three key issues facing 21st-century museums: cultural crossroads -- the challenge of understanding interconnected, global cultures; disciplinary crossroads -- the challenge of adapting institutions steeped in disciplinary tradition to interdisciplinary studies; and artifactual crossroads -- the challenge of adapting to the blurred lines defining categories of "virtual" and "real."

This institute was organized and is facilitated by Eric Sandweiss, professor and Carmony Chair of History and editor of Indiana Magazine of History, and Jason Baird Jackson, associate professor of folklore and director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

"This project leverages Indiana University's resources in both humanities scholarship and museum practice," Sandweiss said. "It marries global theorists and scholars with practitioners and students and asks what each can teach the other."

The Bloomington campus is an ideal place from which to explore common challenges and bring those professional realms together, Jackson said. "'Museums at the Crossroads,' along with the Mathers Museum's developing partnerships with other domestic and international museums, promises to make IU a key locus in an evolving global discussion of museums as tangible, concrete sites in which to understand and interpret the otherwise overwhelming scale of global social change."

"Museums at the Crossroads" attendees will participate in an eight-day program of workshops, charrettes and tours of museums, including the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the T.C. Steele State Historic Site and the Indiana State Museum. The Mathers Museum and its unique collections will serve as a source of workshop case studies as participants explore cultural transmission and global change within specific spaces and with particular artifacts.

The institute includes four public lectures by scholars with expertise in the "crossroads" challenges:

  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 14, "Museums at the Crossroads" -- Steven Lubar, former curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and professor in the departments of American studies and history at Brown University, will discuss the modes of thought, practice and reception that distinguish the museum from other venues of cultural research and transmission.
  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 15, "Cultural Crossroads: World Cultures in Transition" -- Michael Brown, the president of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M., explores globalization and localization, and their implications for understanding the relation and movement of states, people and cultures across space. Brown is the author of many scholarly essays as well as six books, including "Who Owns Native Culture?" (Harvard University Press, 2003) and "Upriver: The Turbulent Life and Times of an Amazonian People" (Harvard University Press, 2014).
  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 16, "Disciplinary Crossroads: Scholarly Method and the Evolving Sociology of Knowledge" -- Stephan Fuchs, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, will examine the evolution, interrelation and current state of history, anthropology, folklore, natural science and art -- disciplines that helped to define museums and that today offer both benefits and drawbacks to our efforts to arrive at a fresh understanding of global cultures.
  • 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 17, "Artifactual Crossroads: Real Meets Virtual" -- Haidy Geismar, director of the digital anthropology program at England's University College London, will address the revolution in information, from its origins in print and the early electronic age through today's hypermedia, as well as the effect of changing modes of display and dissemination upon learning and teaching.

In addition to the keynote speakers, four international fellows have been selected to participate in the institute, based on their innovative work and its impact on cultural understanding: Jennifer Kramer, University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada; Jette Sandahl, formerly of the Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark; Antonia Ferreira Soares, Museu de Favela, Rio de Janeiro; and Wang Wei, Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, Nanning, Guangxi, China.

Individuals working in museums from the United States and abroad were also chosen to participate in the institute as professional partners: Carrie Hertz, Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, N.M.; Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Brussels; Stephanie Lile, Washington State Historical Society, Gig Harbor, Wash.; Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Ill.; Jennifer Shannon, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Boulder; Candessa Tehee, Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah, Okla.; and Brittany Wheeler, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

IU Bloomington faculty and staff participating in "Museums at the Crossroads" include Heather Akou, associate professor and chair of the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design; Beth Buggenhagen, associate professor of anthropology; Susan Ferentinos, Department of History; Jennifer Goodlander, assistant professor of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance; Jon Kay, professor of practice of folklore; Susan Seizer, associate professor of communication and culture; and Mathers Museum staff. Graduate students attending the institute include Meredith McGriff and Kelly Totten, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology; Emily Buhrow Rogers, Departments of Anthropology and Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology; and Sara Clark, School of Education.

The free public lectures will take place at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington. For more information, email or call 812-855-6873.

Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Print-Quality Photo

Michael Brown

Michael Brown is the president of the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M.

Print-Quality Photo

Haidy Geismar is director of the digital anthropology program at University College London in England.

Haidy Geismar is director of the digital anthropology program at University College London in England.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Judy Kirk

  • Mathers Museum of World Cultures
  • Office (812) 855-1696