Mathers Panel to discuss prospects in the humanities

Mathers Museum of World Cultures staff and other museum directors and curators will be taking part in a free public panel discussion 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Friday at the College Arts and Humanities Institute in Bloomington.

The objective of the panel is to discuss current and future prospects for public humanities work in museums of ethnography and cultural history, according to the Mathers Museum’s website.

“This is a very exciting time in this field with new technologies and new opportunities are emerging for students who are interested in pursuing studies or careers in museums and archives,” said Judy Kirk, assistant director of Mathers. “These speakers will share information about those aspects with audience members.”

This will be a collaborative panel that will include representation from IU, Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska. The panelists will introduce themselves, and there will be a question and answer section.

Topics that will be discussed include digital humanities, the changing status of curation and career preparation in the museum field.

Panelists at this event will include IU faculty Jason Baird Jackson and Jon Kay and other out-of-state museum curators and directors, such as Marin Hanson, Marsha MacDowell and Mary Worrall.

Jason Baird Jackson, director of Mathers, came up with the idea of this panel as a way to engage the IU museum in collaboration with other workshop scholars who were originally coming to Bloomington to work with the museum on a new project and grant proposal.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for students and staff to make a connection with these workshop scholars,” Jackson said. “This is an opportunity to meet the scholars one on one.”

Kurt Dewhurst, director of arts and cultural initiatives at Michigan State University and a panelist at the event, will share Michigan State University’s experience with its museum’s global collaborative partnerships.

Topics he will cover include the museum’s ongoing folk life and intangible cultural heritage work with Chinese museum colleagues, Chinese-American communities and tradition-bearers in Michigan.

“By opening up the dialogue to invite community participation, we anticipate a richer series of outcomes, as well as conveying our desire to share more information on the emerging plans for collaborative research, documentation and presentation of our work,” Dewhurst said.

This will enable us to build a deeper understanding of Chinese cultures and the emerging Chinese-American forms of culture, he said.

Audience members should expect an introduction to the topic of humanities as well as the museum’s progress on its partnership with museums in China, Dewhurst said.

“Given the growing economic and cultural connections between the U.S. and China, there is much for us to learn by carefully listening to one another and also co-creating true international partnerships that focus on expressive culture,” Dewhurst said.

The College Arts and Humanities Institute will fund the discussion through the Global Midwest initiative of the Humanities Without Walls consortium.

The panel is free of charge to attend and is aimed toward students who are aiming to get involved in the humanities field.

“The panel is worthwhile, since now is the time of change in museums,” Jackson said. “Students are eager in the careers in the humanity field, and this discussion should help them learn what’s happening and how they can get involved.”

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