In its fourth month of operation, Peabody2 is gaining a foothold on campus as an alternative venue for community events and as a platform for academic exchanges.
The pop-up exhibit, co-sponsored by the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, is part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration and expected to continue through May 2017. The space, divided into four geographical regions, showcases ethnographic art and carvings from Australia and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines. But more than just a museum exhibit, Peabody2 is serving as a venue for campus groups and as part of the ongoing conversation on race and ethnicity at Yale and in the nation at large.
Student organizations like the Alliance for Southeast Asian Students and faculty groups such as the president’s office and the ONHSA have held events at the Peabody2 since the exhibit’s August opening, according to the Peabody’s Director of Student Programs David Heiser. He added that the display has so far received “many positive comments.”
According to Michael Dove, curator of anthropology at the Peabody and an anthropology professor, when the ONHSA contacted the museum about the opportunity, he saw it as a chance to both reach a different student and public audience and contribute to discussions surrounding different races and ethnicities.
The exhibit at Peabody2 is an attempt to demonstrate the interconnectedness of societies around the world, Dove said. These ethnographic artworks, some which depict human anatomy through an X-ray vision that allows viewers to see internal organs, influenced the surrealist movement in Europe and North America in the early 20th century. The stimulated commercial demand for these carvings and paintings inevitably changed the ways artists in Oceania and Southeast Asia sculpted and painted, Dove said.
“You are looking at something that is actually part of a response to our own artistic appreciation and purchases,” Dove said. “When we think we are seeing the ‘others,’ we are also seeing ourselves. We are not as separate, or as different, which is highly topical in the political environment, as we seem to think.”
In designing Peabody2, Dove said he convened a student advisory committee with representatives from the different student interest groups, many of whom conducted summer anthropological research in one of the four geographic regions displayed in Peabody2.
The student advisory committee is also responsible for planning campus activities during the year in Peabody2, according to Dove, citing the upcoming six-week event featuring music lessons and performances of gamelans, a type of instrument indigenous to Indonesia.
“We thought we would try to address [campus discussions on race and ethnicity] in part with this exhibit which made it all the more important to try to involve the students in the exhibit,” Dove added.
According to Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17, treasurer of ALSEAS — the umbrella organization for students from or interested in Southeast Asia — the Peabody reached out to the group at the end of last semester to collect ideas and feedback from students about the design of the exposition. She added that the Peabody has been very keen on engaging with students.
One of the first student groups to use the space at Peabody2, ALSEAS hosted Southeast Asian affairs columnist Karim Raslan on Tuesday night as the organization’s fall season event and as a launch party to introduce Peabody2 to the entire student body, Wongwaiwate said.
“We decided that maybe it would be nice to have [Raslan] here because it is a nice space, and people can come by and listen,” Wongwaiwate added. “It is a good venue, so we could maybe connect [the event] to the art.”
Although the property that currently houses Peabody2 will welcome a new retail store next May, the yearlong pop-up exhibit has triggered the idea of more off-site Peabody displays, Dove said. Calling the 1 Broadway site “too valuable a rental property” for the University to give up, Dove said the Peabody is lucky to have the space for a year.
Heiser said it is unlikely that Peabody2 would be made permanent but that the museum is currently holding internal discussions on the possibility of transforming other locations near the center of campus into “leaping-off points for discussions about race and identity.”
“Ideally we would love to have a Peabody presence at the Schwarzman Center at some point, if there is provision for exhibit space in the Schwarzman Center,” Heiser said. “There has been discussion but no resolution yet.”
The event on Tuesday night focused on the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency on Southeast Asia.