Publisher’s Column

A Culture of Understanding

Robert V. Duncan

Vice Chancellor for Research

When the anthropological sciences first emerged as an academic discipline, collections of cultural objects were often studied and displayed without much concern for any meaningful context. It was an approach that today can seem naïve, even insulting.

Contemporary museums, like MU’s Museum of Anthropology, work hard to show greater respect for the people — whether ancient or more modern — from whom their collections were acquired. Values and norms are discussed; shifting attitudes toward symbol and meaning are explored. The goal is to use exhibited items, like those depicted in our cover feature, to tell a larger story, one that provides greater appreciation for how diverse communities, over vast stretches of time, have chosen to represent their unique experience of our common humanity.

This magazine shares a similar goal of providing insight. In this issue you’ll find accounts of how a range of faculty scientists and scholars are also continually exploring new ways of seeing, be it in laboratory, library or field research. You’ll meet, for example, a biochemist who is making strides toward unraveling the secrets of a deadly childhood illness, a historian who is changing the way we perceive one of 19th century’s most significant figures, and a recent doctoral graduate whose analysis of a famous fossil has attracted the attention of scientists worldwide.

I’d like to close on a personal note. This will be my last letter as Illumination’s publisher. In January I will be leaving MU, and my home state of Missouri, to become the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. It has been a privilege to spend the last five years working each day with MU’s incredibly talented faculty, students and staff. Their efforts, as you have seen documented in these pages and elsewhere, have earned MU a place of distinction among the world’s great universities. It has been an honor to serve in advancing their important work.

I look forward to helping Texas Tech University achieve a similar level of excellence. Still, you can be sure that, wherever I go, I will never cease to remain a proud Missourian.

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