Nearly 300 attend NIU Anthropology Museum opening

Cole Hall open house welcomes community members

Nearly 300 people from across the state and across the country attended Sunday’s open house at Northern Illinois University’s Fay-Cooper Cole Hall in DeKalb, highlighted by the grand opening of NIU’s new anthropology museum, which officially opened its doors to the public.

The Anthropology Museum features two new exhibits in its brand new space:

-Touch the Sky – a series of photographs by world-renowned nature photographer Jim Brandenburg, whose work in this exhibit captures the breathtaking vistas and iconic creatures of the American prairie. Brandenburg has worked as a photographer with National Geographic magazine for over three decades. His photographs also have been featured on all major television networks.

-And Dancing With Spirit –an introduction to the characters and iconography of Korean mask theater. The exhibit is curated by Kathy Foley, a professor of theater arts at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Kendall Thu, NIU Anthropology Department chair, welcomed guests from as far away as Florida, New Mexico and California. He explained the importance of anthropology and specifically, what the opening of the museum means to Northern Illinois University.

“This is a place and a space where we reflect on what it means to be human—past and present—in order to consider our future,” Thu said. “Each artifact, each photograph, contains a story about who we are, where we come from, and the environment in which we live in order to challenge and engage us in imagining the future. And I think that is a fitting tribute—an enduring tribute—to the tragedy we endured four years ago.”

The NIU Anthropology Museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Cole Hall had not been used since February, 2008.  Construction began in February, 2011, and the building reopened to students for the spring semester January 17, 2012.  Generally, visitors were impressed by the detail and thoughtfulness of the integration of technology within the building’s reconfigured design.

“It took a lot of thought, a lot of time and a lot of work by so many people—many of whom are here today,” said Dr. Raymond Alden III, executive vice president and provost.  “Because of this, Cole Hall now stands as testament to this university’s resolve– a symbol for our vision of the future and a campus crown jewel.”

In addition to The Anthropology Museum, the renovated Cole Hall is now home to two premier educational spaces:

-The Cole Hall Collaboratory Classroom, which boasts 48 computer stations divided among six separate learning pods. Each pod is equipped with a 65-inch, high-definition digital touch screen, enabling students to interact with educational material in the same way users interact with touch-screen iPads. NIU officials say it is not only one of the most unique and cutting-edge educational settings on campus, but anywhere.

-And the 351-seat Jameson Auditorium. The 43-year-old lecture hall has been completely overhauled with the addition of improved sightlines and access, technology supporting up to 750 wireless devices, comfortable seats that swivel 360 degrees to allow for small-group interactions, the highest quality HD projection system on campus, back-of-the-room HDTV monitors and a full complement of smart technology to meet the needs of students and educators.

Members of NIU’s board of trustees, community members—including first responders—and elected officials attended the Cole Hall open house, and the event was looked upon as a way to move forward.

“There is a sorrow that will always remain,” said NIU Board of Trustees Chair Cherilyn G. Murer, who was also board chair in 2008. “There is a consciousness that is prevalent, but there is also a joyousness, to be able to dedicate a building in memory of education, in memory of going forward, and in memory of those who were here that fateful day to pursue their education.”

“This is our way of honoring the memories of our precious Huskies lost on February 14 — by creating a legacy of teaching and learning,” said NIU President John G. Peters.  “This is who we are at NIU.”

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