Arts & Humanities

Connecting our strengths in humanistic and artistic exploration

We believe the humanistic disciplines that help us understand our world—history, philosophy, language, communication and culture, political theory, religion—are enhanced by deep exploration into how we express ourselves through the arts. As the state’s leader in humanities and arts education, we continually look for new ways to connect our creative research and scholarship with the study of the human experience.

The IU Cinema

Where arts venues are places of study

We’re fortunate to have some of the world’s finest arts venues and museums, which are not only places for exceptional performances and exhibits—they’re hubs for academic study. At the IU Cinema, students, faculty, and visiting filmmakers and actors participate in symposia, film series, and events that cover topics like African diaspora, femininity and feminism, and the Great War. The cinema doubles as a research facility, allowing scholars to revisit cinematic texts archived within IU’s vast collections.

A commitment to arts and humanities

The Arts and Humanities Council is dedicated to creating rich arts and humanities experiences for all members of the IU community. As part of its mission, the council has created a comprehensive events calendar to spotlight the amazing activities taking place on and around the IU Bloomington campus.

Providing free access to the community

All our arts venues are open to the public and many of them are free—providing access to transformative learning experiences for students, faculty, visitors, and our community.

  • Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art: Designed by renowned architect I. M. Pei, the museum holds an internationally acclaimed collection of 45,000+ objects—including paintings by Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet—which serve to advance art research and education for IU and to engage many community audiences, from pre-K to seniors.
  • Grunwald Gallery of Art: Undergraduate, M.F.A. student, and faculty exhibitions—as well as juried exhibits from artists around the world—cover a range of interdisciplinary subjects and themes.
  • IU Jacobs School of Music: The world-renowned school presents hundreds of free recitals from students and faculty annually in its performance halls, as well as regular free IU orchestral performances at the Musical Arts Center (MAC).
  • Lilly Library: Rare original works like Shakespeare’s first folio are among the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, films, sheet music, and pieces of art that are available for scholars and admirers of all kinds.
  • Mathers Museum of World Cultures: Art and objects from African, Asian, Latin American, and Native American cultures include 2,000 ethnomusicology items from every continent.

Preserving IU’s recordings

Description of the video:

[Words appear: Wax Cylinder Recordings: Preservation and Discovery through Digitization]

[Words appear: Indiana University’s Archives of Traditional Music is home to nearly 7,000 wax cylinders recorded in the field.]

[Words appear: A modern playback machine created by Nick Bergh is used to digitize these cylinders.]

[Words appear: Melissa Widzinsky, audio preservation engineer, Media Digitization Preservation Initiative]

Melissa speaks: Cylinder recordings were invented in the late 1800s and popular through the 1930s. We have about 7,000 sealed cylinders and each one of them is unique because they were cut in the field for each individual recording.

This is actually the second largest field cylinder recording collection in the United States, after the Library of Congress.

[Words appear: Dan Figurelli, audio preservation engineer, Media Digitization Preservation Initiative]

Dan speaks: Ethnographers would go out into the field and they knew that these languages were becoming endangered. So they would want to go out and preserve these languages as well as their stories and their music and things like that. A lot of these formats are very difficult to play back so we have specialized gear that’s designed to play them back as accurately as possible.

Melissa speaks: The cylinder machine that we have here at IU is unique—it is the first its kind actually out in production.

Dan speaks: It has a laser that will measure the distance between itself and the cylinder. So a cylinder, when it spins, it’s not perfectly centered. So it has a wobble to it. What that laser does, it gives us a measurement to basically make up for that sort of wobble. When we play it back we get a nice smooth surface to play on.

Melissa speaks: It is a lot more precise than other types of machines where you might be adjusting by eye or not at all.

Dan speaks: We’ll get a cylinder, then, first we assess whether it can be played. We put it on the machine and we use the laser to make measurements to make sure that it’s perfectly centered. We have a good idea of what is in these collections but we don’t know exactly what’s in these collections yet. There could be languages, there could be songs, there could be significant things that have been overlooked—maybe never even heard from since they were recorded. It’s really a special thing to be able to hear these things and then also make them accessible to everyone else.

[Words appear: Audio sample from a cylinder in the Laufer Collection featuring a Chinese shadow play of lute and voice, 1901 to 1902]


[Words appear: provided with permission from the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History]

[Words appear: Special thanks to]

[Video: National Endowment for the Humanities logo appears]

[Words appear: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities]

[Words appear: UITS: University Information Technology Services, Copyright 2017, The Trustees of Indiana University]


As video and audio technologies evolve, older formats such as VHS tapes or audio cassettes often lie gathering dust in boxes or in dark attic corners. But where a family might have a handful of home movies, Indiana University has more than 635,000 audio, video, and film recordings.

Through the IU Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI), IU aims to preserve this extensive collection of rare and often irreplaceable recordings. The most critical components of the collection are slated for digitization and will be made available by IU’s bicentennial in 2020.

Learn about MDPI

IU’s museums and repositories house everything from an Andy Warhol print to artifacts from the Angel Mounds site to an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.