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Mathers Museum celebrates 50th anniversary

April 4, 2013

Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures marks its 50th anniversary this month with a new exhibition and a series of free programs 

The “Treasures of the Mathers Museum” exhibition opens Sunday, April 28. As its name suggests, the exhibition is an overview of the breadth of the museum’s collections. “While it’s a celebration of the museum’s anniversary, the exhibition also traces the history of how the museum’s collections have grown, and how this growth reflects wider changes in the museum, as well as the passions and interests of those students, scholars and collectors with whom we have partnered over five decades,” says museum director Jason Baird Jackson.

The museum was formally organized as the Indiana University Museum in 1963, under the leadership of Wesley Hurt. It grew from a small assemblage of artifacts in a few rooms in Maxwell Hall to the current holdings of 28,000 objects and 40,000 photographic materials that “are a unique and priceless resource for understanding the collective human story, past and present,” says Jackson.

The museum moved to its current location in 1983, and was renamed the William Hammond Mathers Museum in recognition of the son of Frank and Maud Mathers, the principal building fund donors. The Mathers Museum is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. Geoffrey Conrad served as the director from 1983 to 2012 and oversaw the expansion of museum collections and programs during those decades. Jackson was appointed director of the museum in January and has worked with museum staff to produce the “Treasures” exhibition.

The exhibition features a broad selection of the museum’s holdings, highlighting artifacts by decades and collectors. Distinctive strengths of the collections are represented in the exhibit, including artifacts of African, Native American, and Latin American cultures; historical materials from Indiana; and musical instruments from around the world. Collectors featured in the exhibit include Henry and Cecilia Wahl, Pacific and Indiana materials; Laura Boulton, musical instruments; Madge and Sherman Minton Jr., Pakistani materials; Roy Sieber, African materials; and Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, Native American materials.

Two additional exhibits will open on April 28. “Time As We Keep It,” is curated by IU senior Paige Kadish. “Footsteps of a Stranger: Shoes from Cultures Around the World” is curated by IU sophomore Haley Hall. Both are students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Kadish is majoring in political science and Hall in anthropology.

The museum is also offering a number of free programs during the month of April, kicking off the institution’s anniversary celebrations. Find full details of the anniversary exhibits and events on the musuem’s website.

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