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From the Desk of the Provost: December 2013

Dec. 5, 2013

During his most recent State of the University Address, President Michael A. McRobbie eloquently outlined the three fundamental elements of the mission of a university: the creation of knowledge, the dissemination of knowledge and the preservation of knowledge.

Portia Maultsby

Portia Maultsby, the Laura Boulton Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

IU Bloomington has a long and storied history of pursuing each aspect through the innovative research and dedicated teaching of our faculty, as well as the tireless efforts of our librarians and archivists.

While each member of our faculty and staff contributes to creation, dissemination and preservation of knowledge, it’s rare to come across an individual whose career encompasses all three elements in equal measure. One such scholar is Portia Maultsby, the Laura Boulton Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

Maultsby’s area of expertise is the history and development of African American music in popular culture, and she has devoted her professional life to the creation, dissemination and preservation of knowledge in this field. She has delivered lectures around the world, served as a researcher and consultant for several documentaries, been profiled in Rolling Stone and developed the interactive website History of African American Music, presented by Carnegie Hall.

Her work on the Bloomington campus has been nothing short of exemplary. Maultsby served as chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies for six years, and she has received several Teaching Excellence Faculty awards, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences' Distinguished Faculty Award. Her courses have included “Popular Music of Black America” and “Applied Ethnomusicology and Folklore: Media Productions.”

Maultsby helped to found IU’s Soul Revue in 1971 and acted as its first director. This ensemble tours across the country performing R&B, soul and funk classics for audiences in schools, colleges and universities, nightclubs, and other venues. The Soul Revue has opened for such legendary artists as James Brown, the Temptations and Booker T. Jones, and many of its alumni have gone on to distinguished careers within the music industry.

Of the many important roles Maultsby has filled during her time at IU Bloomington, however, perhaps none has had a larger and more lasting impact on the campus and the community at large than her work as director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

The archives is one of IU Bloomington’s true gems -- a repository of historical and cultural artifacts unlike any other. The archives include audio and video recordings, photographs, periodicals and other documents chronicling African American music in the post-World War II era.

These materials are of course available to students and scholars at IU, but Maultsby has been instrumental in ensuring that the general public also has access to the collections through special public events, print and online publications, and pedagogical resources. In this way, Maultsby's work serves as a reminder that the fundamental missions of a university are meant to serve not only those within the university, but also the larger community beyond the Sample Gates. 

Lauren Robel

Provost Lauren Robel

Maultsby is not only a curator of the archives; she’s a contributor as well. The Archives of African American Music and Culture’s holdings include The Portia K. Maultsby Collection, an impressive assortment of audio cassettes and transcripts from her field research conducted from 1982 to 1986. Her interviews with musicians, composers, producers, deejays and record company executives provide incredible insight into the emergence and rise of many African American artists with labels such as Motown Records and Stax Records. The archives received a grant from the Grammy Foundation in 2008 to digitally preserve Maultsby's interviews and make them more broadly accessible.

For her outstanding contributions to IU Bloomington, Maultsby recently received the President’s Medal from President McRobbie. This well-deserved award not only honored Maultsby's individual achievements but also highlighted the university’s fundamental mission of creating, disseminating and preserving knowledge, which she has so wonderfully embodied throughout her career.

I congratulate and thank Portia for all she has done for IU Bloomington, and I trust her shining example will inspire us all to continue with our own unique contributions to the mission at the heart of our university. 

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