FOLK-F253: Researching Smithsonian Cultural Collections


Jason Baird Jackson
Course Description

Museums appeal to our curiosity. Among museums, the Smithsonian holds a special place in the imaginations of Americans. The National Museum of Natural History, whose collections will be the primary focus of this course, is the most heavily visited of the Smithsonian museums, with 4.2 million visits in 2019. While many people see the exhibitions halls, far fewer get to go behind the scenes and engage directly with the museum's vast hidden collections. As a former museum curator and director, I know the awe that can be inspired behind the scenes in a museum. Leveraging my role as a Research Associate within the National Museum of Natural History's Department of Anthropology as well as the work in my own lab here at IU (the Material Culture and Heritage Studies Laboratory), this course will provide students with participatory training and research experiences studying selected ethnographic objects and collections in the Smithsonian Institution. Students will study real objects from the past as they are trained to think about how such objects form and frame the society in which we live.