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Pick Museum of Anthropology receives top honors from the Illinois Association of Museums

February 22, 2021

NIU’s Pick Museum of Anthropology received the 2020 Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois Association of Museums (IAM) for the exhibition, Swept Under the Rug during the organization’s recent awards ceremony.

The judges noted that this was an amazing example of the power of community collaboration. “Safe Passage approached the Pick Museum about doing an exhibit, and from there it became a true collaboration with Safe Passage members providing content and insight, while Pick staff guided the transformation of ideas into exhibits, while keeping the power of Safe Passage voices.”

The IAM Awards Committee stated they “were also impressed that the exhibit presented options for all visitors to engage with difficult subject matter in their own way—from quiet spaces to process information to banners allowing allies to show support, all experiences were considered valid and important.”

Christy DeLair, museum director, emphasized the exhibits fit with the museum’s mission “to inspire activism for social justice,” adding, “We are delighted to receive this recognition from IAM, particularly as it acknowledges the value of community-centered curation. I hope this project will inspire other museums and community groups to think creatively about how they can work together.”

“This was a fantastic opportunity for a community collaboration that was driven by Safe Passage to address issues that are of concern nationally and locally,” said curator Rachelle Wilson. “This exhibit was especially impactful on our communities because it highlighted needs right here and helped visitors rethink how they talk about sexual misconduct and assault.”

Though sexual assault affects every community, the topic historically has been considered too taboo to engage with outside of dedicated spaces. The stigmas related to sexual assault often result in victim blaming, lack of support, and lack of resources that lead to the re-traumatization of survivors of sexual assault.

Swept Under the Rug, which was open from Sept. 29 –Dec.  9, was curated by staff members at Safe Passage with artistic content developed and created by sexual assault survivors of all ages. Swept Under the Rug aimed to shed light on the widespread impact of sexual violence on survivors in our local community and created space for conversations.

The exhibit was divided into three main installations – “What Were You Wearing” featured clothing representative of outfits survivors were wearing when they were assaulted; “Touched” addressed the aftermath of these attacks through illustration on mannequins of embodied memories of non-consensual contact; and “When a Child Speaks” shared the experiences of young survivors through painted works on canvas.

“We feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to provide a platform to survivors while educating the community through Swept Under the Rug,” said Kendal Harvell of Safe Passage. “The exhibit was incredibly impactful for two main reasons – survivors felt safe to share their experiences with family and friends, many for the first time, and visitors gained a new perspective on the impact of sexual violence and the needs right here in our own community.”