4 mins read

What’s in it for me?: Part 2- For the intellectually inclined

It’s about 9 a.m. as the hum of computers and fluorescent lights begins to fill the quiet nooks and crannies of the National Music Museum.

Julie Boston, the curatorial assistant, begins her work for the day – anything from maintaining and cataloging the thousands of files of sheet music, art work, posters, magazines and photos to greeting visitors and even answering the phone.

But despite the sometimes everyday work, Boston said the more than 15,000 instruments and many more artifacts never cease to amaze her.

“That’s the really unique position of being here,” she said. “I get to see these really cool things, like instruments shaped like peacocks and alligators.

The National Music Museum was founded in 1973 on the University of South Dakota campus and enjoys a partnership with USD and the Board of Trustees of the Music Museum.

The museum got its start when a Brookings-based man began looking for a place to store his 2,500-plus personal collection, and USD was the only place in South Dakota that had the space, Boston said.

“Culturally, we have instruments from all over the world, so it’s a unique opportunity,” she said. “We’re one of the best museums of its kind in the U.S. There are things you cant see anywhere else that you can see right her in Vermillion, so it’s a nice option that’s local.”

Though history, music and even philosophy classes often stop by the museum, Boston said more students could know about it and make more use of it.

“It is so rare,” Boston said. “Usually, you have to travel a long way to get to a place like this, and being that they’re in town, they (students), should take advantage of what’s right in their back yard.”

As the museum promotes programming – like their noon Brown Bag Lunch Program – the focus is also on an expansion linking the current building on Clark Street with adjacent South Dakota Union Building. The project is still in the fundraising stage, Boston said.

Like the Music Museum, the W.H. Over Museum is also an over-looked opportunity in Vermillion. Founded in 1883 by the South Dakota State Legislature, the museum focuses on preserving South Dakota history.

In addition to museums, USD also owns and operates the University Art Galleries, including the John A. Day Gallery and Gallery 110 in the Warren M. Lee Fine Arts Building and the Oscar Howe Art Gallery in Old Main.

Alison Erazmus has been the director of the galleries since June 2011, the first person to fill that position. Since her arrival, the focus of the galleries has been hands-on education for everyone, from the student workers to those visiting the galleries.

“It’s a research-intensive space, and it’s a hands-on learning space,” she said. “That’s maybe something students could do to enhance whatever they do in the classroom.”

Classes from across the disciplines have taken advantage of the various exhibits during their studies, but Erazmus said students should be more aware of how the galleries and the archived artworks could benefit their studies.

“I know if the professors care and if the professors tell their students to be involved, they will be,” she said. “If the professor is on board, the students will be on board.”

The University Art Galleries were founded in 1977 and the exhibits change throughout the year and are based on various themes. Erazmus said her travels play a huge part in how she selects artists to come into the galleries.

“I certainly try and think of as missing and that’s just a general statement and it’s not to indict anyone, but what I think could enhance what is missing on campus,” she said.

Reach reporter Josie Clarey at [email protected]