Mathers brings research work to life

Within the modest exterior of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures — one of my favorite places to visit on the IU Bloomington campus — something pretty illuminating is going on.

The Mathers, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is shining a light on how museums can change, yet still preserve and promote knowledge of the past and the age-old traditions upon which the present is built.

Mathers director and associate professor of folklore Jason Jackson, the subject of the latest Brilliant Minds video from IU Bloomington’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research, describes the museum’s mission this way:

“We have a special capacity to bridge the work of scholars on campus and the needs and interests of wider communities,” he says. “We really hope that we’re a place where the research work of IU faculty can be brought to life in a way that’s accessible to all kinds of audiences, not just scholarly ones.”

Sounds simple, but it’s kind of, well, brilliant. And it reflects how museums like the Mathers can successfully shape themselves in ways that support and strengthen the research culture on today’s college campuses.

“A residential campus in the classic mold like Indiana University Bloomington has an obligation to constantly think, ‘well what is it that we’re offering students that you can only take advantage of if you do come to Bloomington and study here,” Jackson says. “From my point of view, the Mathers Museum and other museums on this campus are one of the answers to that question.”

More videos in the Brilliant Minds series are available online.

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