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Aurora University’s Schingoethe Center named as a Smithsonian Affiliate

Posted by on January 31, 2017

AURORA, Ill. — The Smithsonian Institution has granted Aurora University’s Schingoethe Center of Native American Cultures affiliate status, making possible new opportunities for collaborative exhibits, artifact loans, research and educational programs.

Smithsonian Affiliates is an outreach program comprising more than 200 organizations across the country that work together to preserve the nation’s heritage, expand knowledge and inspire learning. Affiliates include a wide array of science centers, museums, schools, historical societies, archives, libraries, zoos and aquaria.

SmithNamed_Cneterd“We are a small museum, but we’ve always thought big,” said Meg Bero, executive director of the Schingoethe Center. “The Smithsonian Affiliates designation is a wonderful way for us to build awareness among our students and the community of the museum as a resource.”

The designation is especially significant to students in the university’s museum studies program who might be seeking internships at Smithsonian museums, she said, adding that access to the Smithsonian’s vast resources may also open up new professional development opportunities for AU faculty and local educators.

“We are delighted to begin this new Affiliate partnership with the Schingoethe Center at Aurora University,” said Harold A. Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations. “The Center’s well-deserved reputation and impressive collections tell us much about the diversity and ingenuity of Native Americans and share much in common with collections at the Smithsonian. We look forward to working together to create a greater understanding and appreciation for the historical and contemporary accomplishments of America’s first people and their interconnectedness with all people.”

Schingoethe Center is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in the state. Others include the Adler Planetarium and the Du Sable Museum of African American History in Chicago and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The museum is best known for its Native American collection, which spans prehistory to the present. All indigenous culture areas of North America are represented in the collection, with artifacts from Central and South America as well. The museum also holds a collection of non-Native American art, much of it from regional artists.

Founded in 1990 with the donation of more than 6,000 pieces of Native American art, artifacts and related material from the collection of local connoisseurs Herb and Martha Schingoethe, the museum spent its first 25 years in AU’s Dunham Hall, itself a gift from Martha (Dunham) Schingoethe in honor of her family.

The center’s rare book collection contains original, out-of-print works by white explorers, military personnel and settlers that describe their impressions of and encounters with Native Americans during the 19th century. Among its holdings are a full set of the Bureau of Ethnology Reports and an original copy of Thomas McKenney and James Hall’s three-volume “The History of the Native American Tribes of North America, 1836-1844.” With its 120 hand-colored lithographs, the book is recognized today as one of the most important documents of Native American history.

The collection moved to its new location, a state-of-the-art facility in the university’s newly built Welcome Center, in October 2015.

The Smithsonian’s Harold Closter will be on the AU campus Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, to present the museum’s official affiliate certificate. The ceremony will be held in Crimi Auditorium at 6:45 p.m. His visit will coincide with a reception for the museum’s spring exhibit, “art of facts: Brian Dettmer,” which will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the museum.

The Schingoethe Center of Native American Culture is located in the Aurora University Welcome Center at 1315 Prairie Street in Aurora. For more information, please visit

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Deborah Maue
University Communications