The Cultural Heritage Research Center connects diverse disciplines
July 5, 2016
The meaning of cultural heritage in American communities is in the eye of the beholder, but at IUPUI, those eyes often belong to faculty in the Cultural Heritage Research Center.
The center is based in the School of Liberal Arts and is directed by Elizabeth Kryder-Reid of the Department of Anthropology and the Museum Studies program. It connects diverse disciplines such as geography, museum studies, tourism, history, archaeology, education, visual culture and others to help campus and community audiences learn who we are, where we come from and how cultural heritage shapes our sense of identity.
It's a big job, Kryder-Reid acknowledged.
"We tend to tackle issues that address questions of social inequalities as they intersect with heritage," she said. "Our projects help build the capacity of cultural heritage organizations in our community."
The field helps create a richer understanding of the cultural heritage of the many segments of Indianapolis' population. Thus it can help develop new approaches in the field, create new tools and strategies to better understand ourselves, and be more effective in the study and stewardship of cultural heritage.
The center, also known as the CHRC, is a research unit rather than a teaching organization. That means it is primarily faculty-driven, but students can get involved in research projects. These experiences allow them to develop the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for careers in tourism, museum programming, information technology and education, among others.
The practical impact of the center's work can be seen in AccessIndy, an initiative that unites museum and cultural arts professionals in an effort to improve access and inclusion in their organizations. That, in turn, means a deeper understanding across a wide range of population groups throughout the city.
With funding from the Indiana Arts Commission, Kris Johnson and Kryder-Reid offered roundtables, developed an AccessIndy website and helped connect people working to make their institutions more inclusive. Johnson is an alumna who is also the founder of and program coordinator for AccessIndy.
"The process helped make AccessIndy an ongoing organization that meets community needs," Kryder-Reid said.
The center has also supported IUPUI's involvement in a national project called "States of Incarceration." The collaborative project was organized by the Humanities Action Lab based in the New School, a liberal arts college located in New York City.
"We were one of 20 partners working to curate a traveling exhibit and to create a website that will engage audiences around the country in the history of incarceration and its contemporary consequences," Kryder-Reid said.
She was part of a contingent of colleagues and 15 IUPUI students who went to New York City in April to attend the opening of the exhibit and a symposium on the topic.
The exhibit is scheduled to visit the Central Library in Indianapolis in April 2017. Kryder-Reid plans to teach an "interpreting incarceration" class this fall, giving IUPUI students an opportunity to develop public programming to help audiences engage with the exhibit.
Other projects on the Cultural Heritage Research Center's radar are studying Native American heritage sites such as Mounds State Park east of Anderson and Strawtown Koteewi Park in Hamilton County north of Indianapolis and establishing a story-based map of the corridor that includes West Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Street and Michigan Road, looking at the landscapes of race and class.