Mathers Museum makeover creates flexible exhibition space, hands-on learning area

From the outside, it might look like the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is having a sleepy summer. Yet behind shuttered doors, it is positively buzzing with activity.

The museum is undergoing an unprecedented makeover before it reopens to the public Aug. 19. Instead of one or two display areas being changed, the entire exhibition area is being emptied and updated.

While summer often means new exhibitions, Mathers Museum director Jason Jackson said, “We realized during our strategic planning work that what we really needed was a complete reboot.”

Gallery renovations were accomplished on a shoestring. Still, they address a wide range of needs. The new exhibition halls will provide more flexible and modern space for diverse traveling and temporary exhibitions. And though some key behind-the-scenes goals have been met, what will stand out most to visitors is the fresh layout.

Joseph LaJeunesse 1919

The exhibition “In Their Own Words: Native Americans in World War I” tells the story of soldiers such as Joseph LaJeunesse, shown here in 1919.

Jackson is especially excited about the Devault Teaching Gallery. “This innovative space is being established to provide faculty with a new way to safely share museum collections with their students.”

For example, a music professor could bring students into the gallery to interact with instruments from different cultures. Before, the group might have crowded into a storage room. The new space also allows individuals or classes to rapidly create exhibition prototypes.

In addition, classroom space will be better positioned within the museum. Jackson explained, “As our programs continue to become both more hands-on and more diverse, the classroom will better serve all of our audiences, from seasoned researchers and community collaborators to K-12 students, campus undergraduates and lifelong learners.”

Together these improvements will assist not only in teaching museum work, but also in the study of world cultures across academic disciplines.

Jackson said the changes support a fundamental campus goal: continuing to enrich the student experience.

More on the Mathers

  • The exhibition “In Their Own Words: Native Americans in World War I” will run from Aug. 19 to Dec. 21, 2014.
  • The Mathers Museum has launched an online exhibition of “Ojibwe Public Art, Ostrom Private Lives,” a show that celebrated the collections and lives of Indiana University professors Elinor and Vincent Ostrom.
  • For further information, visit the Mathers Museum web site.

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