John Tolley, June 20, 2018

Indiana University is creating a ?platform? like no other.

Thanks to a 4-year, $1,000,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (and a matching institutional grant,) Indiana is establishing Platform, a collaborative research laboratory focused on contemporary arts and humanities. Platform will be run by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost.

The funds are earmarked for the study of two particular areas - global popular music and Indiana culture. Teams composed of faculty and students from a variety of disciplines will work together in a comprehensive environment that highlights the strengths of the university. It?s a working environment that Platform?s co-principal investigator Jonathan Elmer, professor of English and director of the College Arts and Humanities Institute, said, in a recent IU press release, is reflective of the nature of public humanities.

"The best humanities scholarship is integrative; it takes the multitude of details and seeks the patterns, the interconnections, that gather the details into a big picture. With Platform, we have taken this integrative approach everywhere — bringing researchers and practitioners together from different disciplines, linking teaching and research, and bringing in undergraduate and graduate students into the process of collaboration.

"Our two research teams show the humanities 'thinking big' and engaged in the world — from the span of global popular music to our own backyard, in Indiana studies. We can't wait to get started."

The project will also open up exciting new avenues of study and scholarship for students, said Ed Comentale, professor of English, associate vice provost for arts and humanities, director of the IU Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council and Platform?s other principal investigator. In a time when the pursuit of studies in the arts and humanities has come under criticism for its perceived lack of utility, Comentale said that the hope is that Platform will help students visualize the multitude of possibilities available to them.

There is also to be a strong emphasis placed on community involvement. As researchers delve into the unique culture and history of Indiana, Hoosiers from the Bloomington area and Indiana Uplands region are expected to be involved in the ?planning, execution and delivery of public humanities projects on campus and throughout the state as part of Indiana University's recently announced Center for Rural Engagement.?