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Museum Studies Students Document Indiana State House Artwork

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November 29, 2010

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Members of the Indiana General Assembly had some extra company at the Indiana State House for Organization Day of the 2011 Session. On Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010, students from the Museum Studies Program in the IU School of Liberal Arts enrolled in the IUPUI Collections Care and Management graduate course examined, measured, and documented the more than 40 artworks in and around the State House.

These artworks, which are often hidden in plain sight, will ultimately be researched and featured in student-produced Wikipedia articles and through images on Flickr.

The goal of this documentation project is to increase public awareness of the state’s cultural heritage and make that information accessible in Wikipedia and Flickr, two of world’s most consulted web pages. Students are using resources they and others created through the international project Wikipedia Saves Public Art, which recently rose to national attention from a feature story in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Scholars Use Wikipedia to Save Public Art from the Dustbin of History."

The Collections Care and Management course is taught by Richard McCoy, adjunct instructor at IUPUI and associate conservator of objects and variable art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

"This project is designed to highlight the significance of the many artworks at the State House and serve as a teaching tool for the more than 20 students in the class," said McCoy.

The importance of the students’ research to Indianapolis is underscored by the city’s resurgence of support for its public art. Central to this resurgence is the addition of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the public artwork installed along its sidewalks. The artworks at the State House, however, are among the oldest in the city. Further, Indianapolis has the second largest number of memorials of any city in the United States, (Washington, D.C. being the first) but little information is available online about these important memorials and artworks.

The students undertaking the project hope their work sparks others to act as public stewards of the city’s important collections of public art. According to Jennifer Hodge, tour office coordinator for the Indiana State House, the impact of the research will be immediate.

"The work being done by IUPUI museum studies students to research and bring attention to the public art collection at the State House and surrounding grounds will be a valuable addition to the history of this amazing building, to the grounds, and to the State itself," said Hodge. "This project will bring to light information—in some cases silent and forgotten—about the artists and the stories accompanying their creations."

The tour office looks forward to seeing the articles develop in Wikipedia and having online visitors from all over the state, country, and world enjoy a part of Indiana’s cultural heritage. Further, it is believe that this project will provide the structure for keeping records on future additions to the collection.

For additional information about the project, please visit the project page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WSPA/IndianaStatehouse .

 

Photo cutline: (Left to right) Richard McCoy, associate conservator of objects and variable art, IMA and adjunct faculty, IUPUI Museum Studies Program; museum studies graduate students Stephanie Herrick and Lori Phillips; Representative Tom Saunders;geology graduate student Amanda Charles; and museum studies graduate students Chelsea Libby and Amy Patterson.