Post image for World cultures museum gets new director

World cultures museum gets new director

January 29, 2013

Jason Jackson, associate professor of folklore at Indiana University Bloomington, has been named the new director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. He is the Mathers’ third director. With the appointment, Jackson comes full circle, having worked at the museum during his first year of graduate school at IU, studying cultural anthropology and folklore.

Professor Jason Baird Jackson

Before returning to IU Bloomington, Jackson was curator of ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma, where he was also a faculty member in anthropology. Prior to that appointment, Jackson worked as the curator of anthropology at the Gilcrease Museum, a large museum of American art, history and anthropology in Tulsa, Okla. He currently serves as editor of Museum Anthropology Review and previously edited Museum Anthropology.

Jackson’s current research in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology — focused on studying and interpreting museum collections as evidence for understanding cultural difference, cultural continuity and social change — parallels the mission of the Mathers Museum.

“The Mathers Museum has an outstanding, globe-spanning collection representative of the world’s cultural diversity,” Jackson says. “I am eager to develop strategies to further promote the sophisticated study of this priceless resource.”

Jackson’s commitment to museum-based study and research is reflected in classes he teaches at IU in material culture studies and curatorial methods. In 2011, Jackson was awarded the Faculty Mentor Award by the Graduate and Professional Student Organization. Since 2007, he has also led seminars at the Smithsonian Institution’s Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, teaching students how to use museum collections as unique research resources for the humanities and social sciences.

Founded in 1963, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures has more than 30,000 artifacts from around the world, with renowned collections of African, Native American and Latin American artifacts, objects of Indiana history, and musical instruments from around the world. The museum is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. Sarita Soni, vice provost for research, says Jackson’s appointment will enhance the strength and impact of the Mathers Museum as he builds on the leadership provided by former director Geoffrey W. Conrad. Conrad retired in October 2012 after 29 years of overseeing the museum’s growing collections and programs and establishing the institution’s faculty curator positions. Jackson was appointed a faculty curator in 2012.

“Jason Jackson has excellent scholarly expertise in the fields of folklore and ethnology combined with extensive curatorial experience, and we are delighted that he is bringing all of these skills to the leadership of the Mathers Museum,” Soni says. “I’m confident that he will expand the vision of the Mathers as he effectively articulates the value of the museum and its amazing collections to faculty, students and external audiences around the globe.”

Jackson sees research as the foundation for all museum exhibits and programs.

“A key role for a modern museum is to translate scholarship on vital issues into public programs of wide appeal,” he said. “On a campus rich in cultural, historical and international studies expertise, the museum is well positioned to pursue this key public interest goal. Like the best museums, we can do this work in a way that is sometimes fun, sometimes serious and always engaging.”

Jackson relishes the opportunities that lie ahead for the museum and its audiences.

“The Mathers Museum is a special resource for the people of Indiana,” he said. “Our programs and exhibitions help all visitors appreciate and better understand the complex global world that we all share.”

For more on Jason Baird Jackson and his work, visit his blog “Shreds and Patches.”

Leave a Comment