Inside the Krannert Fine Arts Center next to York Hall sits a room full of beautiful artifacts from numerous periods of the ancient Near East. The collection ranges from ancient cookware to idols and even a pair of tweezers and some safety pins. Despite the incredible pieces and educational opportunities the Jeeninga Museum provides, many students are unaware of its existence and accessibility.
The Jeeninga Museum was established in 1963 by Dr. Gustav Jeeninga, an AU professor of religious studies and archaeology. Although it has existed for quite some time, the museum was recently updated and moved to its current location.
“We’ve reused all of the cases from the old museum,” Professor Tai Lipan, the director of AU’s galleries and co-director of the Jeeninga Museum, explained. “We tried to do it in a way that made it look really beautiful, but used as few resources as we needed to, so that we can hopefully put the money into the collection.”
Before moving to its current home, the authentic artifacts in the museum were mixed in with replicas of other pieces. Now, the real artifacts are held in the museum itself in chronological order, and the replicas are displayed close by in the York lobby.
“We have a large collection of replicas… and they were collected to kind of illuminate the narrative of the places and times in which these things live and give them some context through objects that we don’t own,” Lipan said. “But to me, it’s really important to be clear about what’s real and what’s not.”
Lipan pointed out one of her favorite pieces in the museum, a zoomorphic amphora found off the coast of Turkey between 800 and 200 BC. The ceramic vase was recovered near a shipwreck close to the birthplace of the Apostle Paul. Lipan described why she finds this piece so intriguing.
“[It’s] sort of remarkable to me, because you can still feel the ocean life clinging to it,” she marveled. “And just the idea that it was on its way, you know, you can really imagine the narrative and the story of this thing that was probably holding some sort of important oils.”
Although the museum currently doesn’t offer open hours due to COVID-19, anyone can easily make an appointment at AU’s website and are encouraged to do so.
“[Students] need to understand our openness to make it into what it can be,” Lipan said. “Its job is to serve the community of people that are here. I can think of projects, I can make it happen, I can pull things out, I can dream it up.”
Lipan emphasized the purpose of the Jeeninga Museum, explaining that there is something for everyone.
“I encourage people to not just say, ‘Oh, let’s go check out the museum,’ but to let us know and [we can] get out loads more stuff.”
Students can learn more about the Jeeninga Museum and reserve a visit at https://anderson.edu/galleries/jeeninga-museum/.
“It’s easy for things to become like a gorgeous little tomb that no one visits,” Lipan stated. “I think it’s up to the university to use it in a way that it could be used.”