DeKALB – If a picture can tell a thousand words, than an object can tell a million; and the Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University has more than 20,000 objects to choose from.
The museum decided to ask students, faculty and staff, community members, civic leaders and even the NIU mascot, Victor E. Huskie, to choose which objects should be part of a 50th anniversary exhibition and which stories should be told.
Titled "Curated by DeKalb: 50 Years of the Anthropology Museum," the exhibition highlights the depth, richness and contemporary importance of the museum and NIU. It invites visitors to explore the breadth of human achievement and innovation that have been represented within the museum walls over the years.
The exhibition is now open and will run through May 2015. A special opening reception featuring refreshments and live music will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, at the museum, located in Cole Hall on the NIU campus. The event is free and open to the public.
"The exhibit is about the people in the community, the cultural objects that inspire them and the connections that the Anthropology Museum can inspire," said Jennifer Kirker-Priest, director of the Anthropology Museum.
Highlights include the museum's most recent acquisitions, two Khon masks, presented as gifts from Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand in commemoration of her visit to NIU in September 2014; a kolintang ensemble of suspended gongs, drums and other percussion instruments from the Philippines; a traditional Akah woman's jacket from Laos, which is plain on the front and highly decorated on the back; and a ceramic dog figurine from Latin America, where the animals are indigenous. The figurine was selected by – you guessed it – Victor E. Huskie.
"When you think about history, some of it is people and places, but a lot of it is things," says Marc Strauss, one of the exhibition's co-curators and a member of the NIU Board of Trustees. "The Anthropology Museum at NIU lets people see and touch history."
In 2012, the museum was relocated from the Stevens Building to nearby Cole Hall, where a new state-of-the-art facility delivers engaged-learning experiences for students and community members. Now home to more than 20,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects, the museum planned its golden anniversary celebration to remember its history, strengthen the NIU campus and community relationships and spotlight the contemporary relevance of anthropology.
"I think it's important to understand that DeKalb County is a small part of the whole picture, and that there are other cultures, other ways of doing things, and how blessed we are to be here," said Sue Breese, one of the exhibition's community co-curators and director of the Douglas C. & Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is free and all are welcome. For more information, call 815-753-2520 or email AnthroMuseum@niu.edu.