The Mathers Museum of World Cultures will close one of its popular exhibits in the coming weeks because of maintenance that will be done during summer break.
“200 Years of Living and Thriving in the Hoosier State” was installed in July 2016 and opened at the beginning of the fall semester. The exhibit studies Indiana’s culture and the evolution of artifacts in several different facets of daily life that have changed throughout the past 200 years.
The exhibit identifies 10 common needs all people have and follows how items in each category have changed into today’s modern uses. Some of the categories include shelter, clothing, food, health and personal expression.
Mathers visitors get a glimpse of these kinds of cultural changes through a comparison of the past to the present. An old butter churn sits beside today’s tub of butter substitute that can be found at any neighborhood Kroger. An 1860 coffee mill contrasts with a venti Starbucks cup.
Head of Programs and Education Sarah Hatcher said while most visitors have expressed positive feedback on the exhibit, the inclusion of the Starbucks cup usually gets their attention.
“People are like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not historic,’” Hatcher said. “Well, we’re looking at culture, and culture happens here and now and right now, today, when we’re talking about food and the ways in which we survive, Starbucks cups have kind of become emblematic of survival — at least for the college student.”
This isn’t the only piece of more modern material in the exhibit, though. Mathers included a few pins from IU’s LGBTQ+ Cultural Center in another showcase of the exhibit that sport phrases like “out & proud” and “straight but not narrow.”
While all the pieces in the exhibit are special and carry a distinct historical meaning, Hatcher said she loves the music box on display, which is very similar to a wind-up music box.
This free-standing entertainment device has large discs with different notches punctured in them, which enables it to produce different sounds and tunes when the disc rotates.
The materials in this exhibit and others at Mathers are part of the museum’s collection of more than 30,000 objects, Hatcher said.
“The vast majority of them have been donated to us,” Hatcher said. “Those donations come from a lot of different places — faculty members, community members.”
The exhibit is part of Mathers’ bigger exhibit entitled “Thoughts, Things and Theories... What is Culture?” which has been open since 2005. Hatcher said this exhibit seeks to involve a few different lenses through which to approach culture.
“You can look at culture through the lens of analyzing objects,” Hatcher said. “You can also, and this is what we’re doing in the ‘200 Years of Living and Thriving in the Hoosier State,’ is we’re asking people to think about the common needs that all humans have.”
Hatcher said this exhibit analyzes how Hoosiers have met their common needs in different places at different times.
A variety of different exhibits have rotated within “Thoughts, Things and Theories” over the years. After the summer maintenance has concluded, Hatcher said the museum will reopen the Tuesday before classes start, with the next installation “Looking at Pakistan.”
“It’s a beautiful collection of artifacts, so I’m very excited to share those with people,” Hatcher said.
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