The museum celebrated its 49th year at NIU and continues to engage students and faculty with rich ethnographic and archaeological collections. Revitalized with new staff and new facilities, the museum has seen a whirlwind of activity this year. Our collection of more than 12,000 objects was moved out of temporary storage and into the renovated collections area in the basement of Cole Hall. Students were hired to assist in every aspect of packing, tracking, moving and unpacking the collection objects. Dozens of NIU classes scheduled specialized tours with Museum staff to supplement their curriculum. Thousands of visitors came to experience anthropology through museum exhibits and programs, including the governor of Illinois! We have exciting plans underway for next year and look forward to sharing them with you at the museum.
In our second year in Cole Hall, the museum pushed the boundaries of exhibition content, public engagement and professional scholarship. Testing the physical capacities of the new exhibition space and developing meaningful programs to ignite the community, our staff immediately resolved to transform anthropological research into dynamic exhibitions that would inspire students and visitors to become activists and advocates for human rights and social justice. Working with Mark Schuller, NIU assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development, the museum developed "Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake," a unique exhibition that told the story of six Haitians who survived the 2010 earthquake and followed their lives in the aftermath.
By the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, museum staff produced four exhibitions, presented at two international conferences, taught museum courses, provided a variety of public programs and special tours and supervised a number of student interns. Attendance increased 56% and visitors were clearly energized by the fresh ideas, exhibitions and programs at the new Anthropology Museum.
In 2016, we celebrated our new name as the James B. and Rosalyn L. Pick Museum of Anthropology and are immensely grateful to Dr. James Pick and Rosalyn Laudati, PhD for believing and investing in, and sharing our vision to strengthen the educational environment at NIU. This endowment provided much-needed matching funds from National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Museum & Library Services to begin a collections rehousing project to ensure the preservation of more than 3,200 objects, increase accessibility for faculty and students, and provide valuable hands-on learning experiences to students interested in working in museums.
Storytelling: Hmong American Voices opened with acclaim in early April. Co-curated with a 20-member Hmong Community Advisory Council, this collaborative exhibition explored what it means to be Hmong American, how Hmong life changed since refugees first entered the United States in the 1970s, and what it means to be Hmong American today. Through objects, audio recordings and personal stories of Hmong Americans, this exhibit immersed visitors in the material culture and social issues of Hmong American communities.
Thanks to our 18 passionate undergraduate and graduate students, we were able to enhance opportunities for students to preserve our collections, enrich curriculum with object-based learning and interpretive tours, and develop programs and events that invited a growing number of campus and community audiences to explore human and cultural diversity with the museum.