Mathers Museum invites Ph.D. student to speak on exhibition



The Mathers Museum of World Cultures’ exhibition “Cherokee Craft, 1973” hones in on basketry and other crafts made by the Cherokee people in the 1970s. It is one of a few basketry-themed Themester exhibits at the museum this semester.

Emily Buhrow, a graduate student studying anthropology and folklore and the co-curator of the exhibit, will deliver a lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday on the topic and give a deeper look into the differences between the items and meanings they represent.

“IU and the greater Bloomington area is a place where the handmade is celebrated,” Buhrow said. “I hope that this exhibit highlights another community that people who live here can relate to. I also hope that ‘Cherokee Craft, 1973,’ demonstrates to visitors how art can serve many purposes and have many different meanings.”

These meanings include commercial items geared toward tourists and symbols of family, tradition and identity, Buhrow said. She said Cherokee basketry was the topic of her master’s thesis and she came to IU to continue research in that area.

Buhrow said Jason Baird Jackson, director of the Mathers Museum, approached her to co-curate after learning of her personal experience with the topic.

Jackson said the exhibition is both a celebration of never-seen artifacts and a statement on the city’s appreciation for the visual arts.

“Bloomington is a very craft-conscious community — many people here are interested in hand-made things,” Jackson said. “This exhibition holds special appeal for those who like to make things and for those who appreciate well-crafted objects made by hand.”

Sarah Hatcher, head of programs and education at Mathers, said there are layers of interest for all.

As part of having something for everyone, topics that will be discussed in this lecture touch on the importance of hand-made goods, tradition, cultural change and the environment, 
Hatcher said.

Jackson said Buhrow worked with similar artifacts from multiple Native American groups at the Smithsonian Institution, which gives her a different level of experience and curiosity.

“She is especially interested in questions such as how changing ecological circumstances impact basketry practices and how people learn complex craft techniques,” Jackson said. “IU is a great place to work on such questions.”

The most exciting part is delving into this specific collection and how special these pieces are, Buhrow said.

“It’s an interesting assemblage of what many would consider typical Cherokee basketry from this period, but it also contains some less usual pieces as well, and I am excited to tell people about them,” Buhrow said.

Buhrow said she looks forward to sharing the history behind the baskets and the workers who make them with such care.

Hatcher said she felt informed just by helping to organize this program, but she looks forward to a deeper insight from Buhrow’s research background.

“I learn a lot whenever I’m involved with an exhibit, but lectures allow me to gain even deeper knowledge,” Hatcher said. “Emily is really knowledgeable and a very engaging person, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more from her.”

The lecture is appealing on more than just a topical level, Jackson said, because Buhrow is also a student at the University.

“Students often get really engaged when they learn about how a fellow student has been involved in a hands-on way with a major project like a museum exhibition,” Jackson said. “Students with interest in ecological issues, or in craft, or in Native cultures, or in the Appalachian region would all also get a lot out of the talk.”

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