Kentucky Museum Welcomes Luce Term Assistant Curator, Jackson Medel
- Tiffany Isselhardt
- Tuesday, December 8th, 2020
The Kentucky Museum is pleased to welcome Jackson Medel as the Luce Term Assistant Curator. Medel is a graduate of the University of Missouri, holding a PhD (ABD) in English with an emphasis in Folklore and Culture Studies. He previously worked with the Missouri Folk Arts Program and, from 2016 to 2019, served as Curator and Folklorist at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland.
“Jackson’s diverse background as a folklorist and museum professional are complementary skills that dovetail wonderfully for this particular project.” shares Director Brent Bjorkman. “We are grateful to the Henry Luce Foundation for funding this exciting work to further preserve this important Kentucky Museum collection. Medel’s curation work will enable us to both give greater public access to our celebrated folk art collection AND help to envision how its totality can be used for far-reaching exhibits and programs long into the future.”
Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, Medel’s work focuses on fully cataloging and digitizing our Folk Art collection into PastPerfect and its online companion portal, KenCat. He is also evaluating the collection in order to make recommendations for future exhibitions and acquisitions. Beginning in 2021, Medel will supervise the work of a WKU Folk Studies graduate student and support the work of quilt scholar and folklorist Laurel McKay-Horton, who will evaluate the historical significance of the quilt collection.
“One reason I wanted to be here and doing this work is the stellar reputation of Western as a home for folk studies and the Kentucky Museum as a leader in the field of public humanities,” stated Medel. “I strongly believe in the importance of public education and the betterment of communities at a local level. This position presents the opportunity to a mark on the museum’s collections, as well as help inform the community and Kentucky at large about their own artistic past and present. I believe having that context can help to inform a better and more fully representative future as we have the opportunity to uplift and surface marginalized voices and artistic expressions, demonstrating the ways in which we are all connected, the ways in which we are more similar than different.”
The Kentucky Museum’s Folk Art collection includes approximately 750 works from the 1780s to the present, representing a broad range of Kentucky artistic and craft traditions. The collection includes more than 300 quilt and quilt-related textiles associated with Kentuckians, comprising one of the largest institutional quilt collections in the Commonwealth. Additionally, the Folk Art collection includes tobacco crafts, masks from the Global South and works by notable Kentucky Folk artists Helen LaFrance Orr (b. 1919), Unto Jarvi (1908-1991), Chester Cornett (1913-1981), Willie Massey (1910-1990) and Marvin Finn (1913-2007).
The collection is complemented by the work of the Museum’s partners, including the WKU Department of Art, Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology and the Kentucky Folklife Program, as well as various Folk artists and state, regional and national Folk Art organizations. Together, these partners have helped to produce exhibits and programming, including “Standing the Test of Time: Kentucky’s White Oak Basket Traditions” (2016-17), “Backward and Forward: 20th Century Quilts” (2017) and “The Essential Tree” (2018). These efforts also include community workshops and events, such as the annual Hammer-In blacksmithing festival, that preserve and honor south central Kentucky’s Folk Art traditions.
Support for this project is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, and augmented by private donors whose adoptions of Folk Art artifacts enable the purchase of conservation equipment and supplies. To learn more about the Adopt-an-Artifact program, click here.
About the Henry Luce Foundation: The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders and fostering international understanding. The Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art and public policy. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Time, Inc., the Foundation’s earliest work honored his parents, missionary educators in China. The Foundation’s programs today reflect the value Mr. Luce placed on learning, leadership and long-term commitment in philanthropy.
About the Kentucky Museum: Founded in 1939, the Kentucky Museum is a teaching institution with premier cultural collections that complement, support and challenge the academic experiences of WKU students, faculty and staff. It also provides a gathering place for our campus and community to come to know and celebrate who they are as individuals and as Kentuckians in the 21st century. The Museum serves Kentuckians and visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications and collections research. As a history and cultural museum concerned with meanings, narratives and associations, its collections offer multiple opportunities to explore and interpret history and culture as well as discover how Kentuckians have shaped and been shaped by local, state, regional, national and global influences over the last two-and-a-half centuries.