Archive for Monday, June 24, 2002

Museum defense

June 24, 2002


To the editor:

I strongly oppose the KU administration's decision to close the Museum of Anthropology to the public. It means, in effect, no museum. For 15 years, the museum has done extraordinarily well with meager resources.

Now even that's over.

Without adequate staff, the collections, worth hundreds of thousand of dollars, will idle. They cannot be used effectively for research or for teaching if there is no one with expertise to oversee appropriate handling and accurate interpretation.

Our chancellor has consistently expressed respect for an understanding of cultural diversity. His own research focused on the work of an African American writer, Zora Neale Hurston.

He knows the importance of the mission of the museum: cross-cultural understanding. The current exhibition on early proto-humans is an eloquent rebuttal to the anti-evolution embarrassment Kansas suffered. The Lawrence Indian Art Show, sponsored by the museum, is a strong and successful link to Haskell Indian Nations University.

Museum activities also generate revenue. An exhibition I curated in 1995 resulted in a living trust donation of several hundred thousand dollars, and more than a hundred irreplaceable artifacts from rapidly disappearing Amazonian Indian cultures. Federal grants have made possible installation of climate control mechanisms necessary for the preservation of the collections in Spooner Hall. Other grants and contracts brought in more than $240,000 last year.

An anthropology professor can reach a few students in each course. The museum can reach thousands of grade school students, university students, faculty, and the public with a single public exhibition.

Keep the Museum of Anthropology open and appropriately staffed.

Ann Kuckelman Cobb, chair,

Museum of Anthropology

Community Advisory Board

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