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Mathers Museum opens renovated space


By Alison Graham



Eight months of work went into the Mathers Museum of World Cultures’ latest ?exhibition.

The 51-year-old museum underwent an in-depth reconstruction this summer, which created more exhibit space for the gallery and flexibility in its design.

The exhibition showcases nine exhibits on a range of cultural topics, which became available Tuesday.

Before, the Mathers Museum had three large, rectangular galleries that held mostly permanent collections, meaning that those exhibits were on display for multiple years.

The downside for IU students was that by the time they graduated, they might have only been able to experience one or two exhibits at the museum, director Jason Baird Jackson said.

To change that, the museum has split up its three galleries into different sections that include a more flexible space for shorter-term exhibits, opening up opportunities for students to see more of the museum’s vast ?collection.

The new renovations are part of not only the museum’s strategic plan, but of the campus’ overall strategic plan as well, Jackson said.

The Mathers Museum took into consideration the three “high impact practices” laid out in the campus strategic plan, which include study abroad, hands-on involvement and participation in research projects. These practices are meant to give students more concrete experience so they are ready to enter the work field after graduation.

To implement these, a redesign of the gallery space was a must for the museum, ?Jackson said.

“The galleries are designed to be the beginning of those paths,” he said.

Jackson said the new galleries make it easier for teachers to use the museum more effectively and allow students to become more involved with the research process and hands-on involvement with museum shows and ?exhibits.

Coming with the redesign are more than six new exhibits for Mathers visitors.

To go along with the College of Arts and Science’s Themester, “Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Arts to Science,” three of the exhibits explore food themes.

The first is an exhibit on the acai berry, which originated as a local Brazilian commodity and quickly became a global super food.

The exhibit explores the different ways the berry is being used and why it became so popular in such a short period of time.

The second food exhibit, “Food is Work: Tools and Traditions,” displays artifacts from different areas of the world, showing the process of growing food, discussing where it comes from and what is required to produce the amount needed to feed different areas of the world.

“People of the Coffee Highlands of Nicaragua” serves as the third food exhibit for the Mathers Museum. It traces the journey of coffee from the fields where it is grown to when it is produced, sold and drank.

The exhibit is composed of a collection of photographs depicting and explaining the complex journey.

The Mathers Museum is also setting up an exhibit about wall paintings done by women in Ghana’s Upper East Region. The exhibit was curated by IU Art History and African Studies doctoral candidate Brittany Sheldon, who conducted field research on indigenous murals by women in this specific region of Ghana for her dissertation.

“Instruments of Culture” displays a variety of musical instruments and how they are used in a global setting and influence the culture of different regions where they are used.

A sixth exhibit is a collection of photographs commemorating the involvement of Native Americans in World War I. The exhibit not only has a large display of photographs, but also shares veterans’ stories and experiences.

The museum also updated some of their older and more permanent exhibits to freshen up its space.

“The Life Cycle” was one that used to be spread out throughout the museum but was redesigned and condensed by IU senior ?Andrea Hadsell.

Starting in January, Hadsell redesigned and reworked the exhibit.

“I had a lot of time this summer, so I’ve been doing everything from putting up new walls to scrubbing paint off the floor,” she said.

The exhibit has a variety of artifacts on display that show the life cycle of a human being, but from many different parts of the world. It compares regions like Africa and the U.S. with Asia and other parts of the world.

“The exhibit shows all different cultures coming together to show the same point in our lives but how they are all different,” she said.

The display focuses on how different world regions can impact the way lives can differ from one another.

Hadsell worked on finding new artifacts for the exhibit and researching exactly how they applied to the context of the exhibit.

Working at Mathers gave her a hands-on experience that Jackson hopes other students will want to experience from Mathers.

“Working here gave me a better experience than an internship,” she said. “It was really hands-on and I learned so much.”

To celebrate the re-opening of the museum, Mathers is spreading events throughout the semester that explore the specific exhibits.

Events include artist talks, family events and themester-themed panel discussions.

These events will serve as a semester-long opening celebration for the museum.

“This is a place where we want to make a difference,” Jackson said. “It’s a rare moment for a museum.”

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