Exhibitions explore generational influence of IU faculty

This article contributed by Lauren Oxender, Indiana University student in The Media School and 2019 Content Intern for IU Libraries' Office of Communications.



At Indiana University one person’s work inspires many. 

For the past 200 years, faculty members at IU have influenced its community of learners by planting seeds of information that grow roots here and then branch out into the world.  In Fall 2019 IU Libraries is celebrating the Indiana University Bicentennial with a multi-location exhibition, Lineage Ladders: A Legacy of Faculty Excellence.  Lineage Ladders highlights three faculty members whose work built platforms for future academic generations to stand on, constructing ladders of knowledge at IU.

The multi-location exhibition celebrates faculty and their work as part of an ongoing conversation, inspiring people from global institutions and reaching students in many different disciplines.  Brian Woodman, collections outreach & promotion specialist and initiator of the collaborative project, describes Lineage Ladders as one way to demonstrate how “influence moves from person to person throughout time.” 

Woodman emphasizes that although students may not realize their important role in the movement of information, they are influential in spreading knowledge to others, growing the university’s family tree.  He points out that the daily work students do with faculty members is, in part, the result of the cultivation of passions from the last two centuries.  “Student and faculty work are interconnected,” he says.

Image shows a colorful mobile-style display with names of IU faculty and students engraved on colored plastic
A three-dimensional exhibition hangs outside the Education Library

In the atrium of the School of Education a colorful display will grow throughout the semester.  The tiered structure visually showcases the doctoral students and their generational influence.

a computer monitor shows color photos. It sits on top of a table displaying copies of academic papers.

Amy Minix, a visiting sciences librarian, also notes the student-faculty connection. She curated an exhibit featuring Esther Thelen, a former Psychological and Brain Sciences professor at IU who focused majorly on movement and development in children.  Minix highlights Thelen’s research, teaching, and work ethic while reflecting on the relationships she had with her students.  Minix says, “She inspired students with her drive to understand new approaches and conduct research, and today, students at IU continue to live out her legacy.”

The exhibit, hosted by the Sciences Library inside the Chemistry building, showcases Thelen’s effects on IU and the world, as her challenging foundational theories are still referenced, shaping those in her area of study.  Students continue to expand on Thelen’s studies as they create their own experiences and complete research in light of her psychological foundational theories.  “Thelen challenged what people knew before, and students and faculty took interest in this.  She was influential in psychological research, and her teaching affected her entire discipline,” says Minix.


A woman pauses on a ladder to show a postcard in her hand. She is in front of a glass display case where many other papers are displayed.
Hannah Osborn, University Archives graduate assistant

Osborn describes Eikerman’s close relationships to her students: “She stressed the importance of committing to the work it takes to become an established artist, inspiring her students to treat their careers in the art field seriously.”

Hannah Osborn, University Archives graduate assistant, emphasizes another dedicated faculty member in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.  With assistance from Carrie Schwier, outreach and public services archivist, Osborn curated an exhibit covering Alma Eikerman, a former jewelry and metalsmithing professor at IU.  Along with her career as a distinguished professor, credited with a distinguished teaching award, Eikerman had her own studio practice and built a reputation in the art world outside of IU.  In the exhibition offered in the Scholars’ Commons of Wells Library, her globally recognizable style of sculptural jewelry and vessels, as well as personal testimonials from her students, demonstrate her commitment to her career in the arts and connection to others. 

Inside of an exhibition case is a medal on a purple ribbon and a card with text explaining its meaning.

Eikerman was instrumental in establishing the jewelry and metalsmithing program at IU; current professors teach about her legacy, and students continually reflect her artistic output.

plastic pieces of a mobile have names etched in them

At the Education Library, the collaborative exhibition also connects to the idea of students standing on the shoulders of their educators.  Julie Marie Frye, head of the Education Library, discussed the exhibit featuring Dr. Frank K. Lester, Jr., an Emeritus Chancellor’s professor of mathematics education and cognitive science at the School of Education.  With international distinction in research and teaching, Lester conceptualized professional development programs for teachers of all grades and applied research to better mathematical and problem-solving practices in classrooms across the globe.  In the atrium of the School of Education, just outside the Education Library, a colorful three-dimensional display will grow throughout the semester.  The tiered structure visually showcases the doctoral students Lester mentored, and their generational influence.