From the desk: Creating the IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

As you may have heard, Indiana University is establishing a new museum, the IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In his September 2019 "State of Indiana University at the Bicentennial" speech, President Michael A. McRobbie announced the creation of this new museum as part of IU's ongoing efforts to steward its 120-plus collections and preserve the knowledge they hold.

Fred H. CateView print quality image
Fred H. Cate. Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

Among the university's various preservation efforts are the highly successful Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, the renovation and reopening of the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and the appointment of Heather Calloway, IU's first executive director of university collections.

The new Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will marry the rich collections of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. For many years, the Glenn Black Laboratory and the Mathers Museum have collected, protected, preserved and exhibited unique artifacts and notable cultural collections for the benefit of the campus community and far beyond. The building at 416 N. Indiana Ave. that houses these collections is decades old, however, and has seen no renovations since opening.

Beginning in late spring 2020, that building will be substantially renovated to house the new museum. The building renovation will be funded through an $11 million capital appropriation made to IU in the last state budget and other state funds, for which we are extremely grateful to the Legislature and Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Much-needed renovations will include:

  • Converting two dated and inefficient separate museum spaces into one, with extensive replacement and modernization of mechanical and other infrastructure. New HVAC systems, electrical upgrades and other such improvements will make the facility better for visitors, students, researchers and employees.
  • Increasing the visibility of, and access to, collections through extensive use of technology, including 3D digital scanning and exhibition tools developed at IU.
  • Providing improved spaces for research, teaching and public education programs based on the collections.

Our goal is to create a world-class museum whose collections and research resources, dynamic exhibits, engaging programming and outreach efforts will serve IU's education and research missions and make it a leading destination for scholars, students and the public.

At the same time, the new museum will carry on the spirit, collections and activities of the Glenn Black Laboratory and the Mathers Museum. The IU Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology will expand on the Mathers Museum's educational programming and exceptional outreach activities. Also, with our partners from numerous Native American tribal communities and the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, the new museum will promote engagement with the Angel Mounds site near Evansville, Indiana, and highlight the Glenn Black Laboratory's collection of archaeological artifacts.

The new museum also will benefit from dedicated and creative professional staff at Glenn Black Lab and Mathers who average more than 20 years of experience per person in areas such as museum administration, outreach and education, curation, exhibit planning and design, and anthropological research. They will be led by Ed Herrmann as the museum's director. One of IU's own, Ed holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Indiana University and has extensive archaeological experience in Germany, Wyoming, Montana, Ohio, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Indiana and beyond.

After the IU Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology undergoes its renovation starting next year, it will take its place as a cutting-edge example of how IU is preserving the past and present to inspire and educate as we move forward into our third century.

Fred H. Cate is vice president for research and a Distinguished Professor and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.