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2017 Kane County Chronicle Best of the Fox

Aurora University’s Schingoethe Center named a Smithsonian Affiliate

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 8:37 a.m. CDT

AURORA – The Smithsonian Institution has granted the Schingoethe Center of Aurora University affiliate status, making possible new opportunities for collaborative exhibits, artifact loans, research and educational programs.

The Schingoethe Center museum is best known for its Native-American collection, which includes artifacts and artwork dating from prehistory to the present. All indigenous culture areas of North America are represented in the collection, including items from Central and South America as well. The museum also holds a collection of non-Native-American art, much of it from regional artists.

The Schingoethe Center is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in the state. Others include the Adler Planetarium and the Du Sable Museum of African American History in Chicago, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Smithsonian Affiliates is an outreach program comprising more than 200 organizations across the country that work together to preserve the nation’s heritage, expand knowledge and inspire learning. Affiliates include a wide array of science centers, museums, schools, historical societies, archives, libraries, zoos and aquaria.

“We are a small museum, but we’ve always thought big,” said Meg Bero, executive director of the Schingoethe Center, in a news release. “The Smithsonian Affiliates designation is a wonderful way for us to build awareness among scholars and the community of the museum as a resource.”

The designation is especially significant to students in the university’s museum studies program who might be seeking internships at Smithsonian museums, she said, adding that access to the Smithsonian’s vast resources may also open up new professional development opportunities for AU faculty and regional educators.

“We are delighted to begin this new affiliate partnership with the Schingoethe Center at Aurora University,” said Harold A. Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations, in the release. “The center’s well-deserved reputation and impressive collections tell us much about the diversity and ingenuity of Native Americans and share much in common with collections at the Smithsonian. We look forward to working together to create a greater understanding and appreciation for the historical and contemporary accomplishments of America’s first people and their interconnectedness with all people.”

Founded in 1990 with the donation of more than 6,000 pieces of Native-American art, artifacts and related material from the collection of Aurora connoisseurs Herb and Martha Schingoethe, the museum spent its first 25 years in AU’s Dunham Hall, itself a gift from Martha (Dunham) Schingoethe in honor of her family.

The center’s rare book collection contains original, out-of-print works by white explorers, military personnel and settlers that describe their impressions of – and encounters with –Native Americans during the 19th century. Among its holdings are a full set of the Bureau of Ethnology Reports and an original copy of Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s three-volume “The History of the Native American Tribes of North America, 1836-1844.” With its 120 hand-colored lithographs, the book is recognized today as one of the most important documents of Native American history, stated the release.

The collection moved to its new location, a state-of-the-art facility in the university’s newly built Hill Welcome Center, in October 2015.

The Smithsonian’s Harold Closter will be on the AU campus Feb. 7, to present the museum’s official affiliate certificate. The ceremony will be held in the Crimi Auditorium at 6:45 p.m. His visit will coincide with a reception for the museum’s spring exhibit, “art of facts: Brian Dettmer,” which will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the museum.

The Schingoethe Center of Aurora University is located in the Hill Welcome Center at 1315 Prairie St. in Aurora. For more information, visit aurora.edu/museum.

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