Visitors will gaze upon artwork by
Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, a wooden statue of a
nursing woman and, no doubt, some sexually explicit photographs.
Beginning Dec. 15, the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University will offer the first regularly scheduled and publicly announced tours of its offices for members of the general public 18 years old and over. Other tours will be on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16.
“People should know about us,” Director John Bancroft said. “This a unique institute. There is nothing really like it in the world.”
The institute conducts research on sexuality, gender and reproduction and maintains a large collection of books, art work, films and other items for scholarly use. It was incorporated as a private, nonprofit organization in 1947 with IU professor Alfred Kinsey as its director.
Sexually Responsible Society
Its collections include more than 7,000 original works of art; approximately 75,000 photographic images dating to 1880; about 80,000 books, journals and scientific articles; around 6,500 reels of film; and a variety of artifacts spanning more than 2,000 years of human history.
The institute also holds all of Kinsey’s original sex research data and correspondence. Access to the collections, valued at more than $30 million, is strictly controlled.
More than 600 IU students also have taken tours of the institute. Institute staff also have offered tours for non-scholars in the past, but the publicly announced tours mark a change in policy.
The sexual material that pervades American culture makes the work of the institute more important today than ever before, Bancroft said. By studying sexuality, sexual images and ideas about both, the institute can help a “confused and conflicted” society.
“I see openness and comfort with sexuality as something we should all be moving toward as we become a more sexually responsible society,” Bancroft said. “That process is going to require good evidence and good information to back it up.”
More Open Institute
Under Bancroft’s leadership, the institute over the past three years has become more open and visible. It has organized public displays of its art holdings, published a book of photographs and brought hundreds of IU undergraduates into its offices in Morrison Hall.
Conservatives have criticized Kinsey and IU since the institute’s founding 53 years ago. Just this year, a candidate for the Indiana House of Representatives attacked the incumbent for supporting sexual depravity because he had voted in favor of the state budget, which included funding for Indiana University.
Appearing to be secretive and withdrawn only helps those who attack the institute with misinformation, Bancroft said.
“There are still people out there who want to burn us down, but they’re the minority,” Bancroft said. “The majority probably don’t know we exist. We have no reason or need to be secret.”