The Gustav Jeeninga Museum of Bible and Near Eastern Studies is taking up residency in York Performance Hall.
The process of moving began in the fall of 2018 and is expected to be completed by the beginning of the fall of 2019.
Dr. Tai Lipan, director of university galleries, and Dr. David Murphy, the museum director, are heading up this project.
“From the beginning, Dave and I saw a lot of different opportunities for the galleries and the museums,” said Lipan. “So we were thinking ahead of the curve about how we could market what AU has on campus and make it better.”
The museum was founded in 1963 by Dr. Gustav Jeeninga and has been the legacy he left behind for AU after his retirement in 1992.
“The museum is really the product of the research, scholarship and commitment of Dr. Gustav Jeeninga, who taught here for many years in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry,” said Murphy.
But Jeeniga was not the only one with a legacy that was left in museum. Many families have donated to this collection and their memory will be carried on through it.
Lipan and Murphy believe they needed to recognize the donors by making the public more aware of the museum.
“I run the Warner Sallman collection,” said Lipan. “A lot of times I have large tour buses of people coming in who I am taking on tours of all these interesting paintings. I end up thinking, ‘You should see this museum we have, but I don’t have keys and it is further away.’
“It was a really complex problem to try and market with everything being so spread out. We had a gallery open up in York Performance Hall and thought it would be great to solve these problems all at once by moving the collection there.”
Since the museum was hidden, students did not know much about its rich history.
“We wanted to improve the visibility of this really valuable collection,” said Murphy. “It used to be in a nice facility, but it was so hidden away that I had students who wouldn’t know this museum existed or that we had such an amazing history collection. I think when we have it in its new place, it won’t be like that for much longer.”
Lipan and Murphy believe that making this collection more public will improve relations with public history majors, allowing students to use the museum as a learning experience and aiding students with research.
“I actually just fielded a request from a student at Ball State who is really excited to collect research from our collection,” said Lipan. “He communicated to me how excited he was about some of the things we will have on display.”
As for the future of the space that once occupied the museum, Dr. MaryAnn Hawkins, dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, hopes to expand Warren Lounge into a prayer and meditation area. The funds for this project have been provided in an estate gift.
It is important to Lipan and Murphy that all items will be displayed in the museum’s new location. The previous facility was too small to accommodate all of the artifacts.
“There are more than 360 separate objects on display right now and it was part of our commitment to the heritage of Dr. Gustav Jeeninga and the people who created and oversaw—kind of nurtured this collection for so long—that so much of that remains on display,” said Murphy.
To Murphy and Lipan, these artifacts are not old items, but the telling of a story and history.
“We have some Roman glass pieces that were produced while Rome was governing Judea in Palestine,” said Murphy. “They are really old—several thousand years old—very delicate, finely colored and worked. The craftsmanship is incredible. These fragile little pieces of human endeavor have lasted several millennia to arrive here.”
Other artifacts that are to be displayed are historical period lamps, a mummy and a replica of the Rosetta Stone.
“It is a valuable collection,” said Murphy. “It is a unique collection for a school like ours in the Midwest. We wanted it to be the best asset it can be to the university.”