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About the Museum

Brief History of Museums at BYU

Lewis Building
Lewis Building

Museum efforts at Brigham Young Academy began as early as 1879, when James E. Talmage was appointed curator of the Brigham Young Academy Museum. We know from his notes that the museum collected natural history, geological, and archaeological objects. By the 1930s, BYU’s museum collections were located in Room D of the Education Building (now the Provo City Library). Over time, the original museum collections were split up. The University now has four museums - the Paleontology Museum, the Museum of Art, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, and the Museum of Peoples and Cultures (MPC). The MPC is Brigham Young University’s archaeological and anthropological museum.

Brief History of the Museum of Peoples and Cultures

Brigham Young Academy
Brigham Young Academy

BYU’s archaeology department was established in 1946. In part, the formation of the department and the subsequent field work necessitated the opening of a separate archaeology museum. In those early years, the archaeology museum was located in the lower floor of the Eyring Science Center. In 1961 it was moved to the bottom floor of the Maeser Building, and in 1981 it moved to Allen Hall and was given its current name.

Previous even to Allen Hall, the roots of today’s collections were stored and displayed in the Lewis Building on Provo Center Street (no longer standing), the Academy Building on University Avenue (now the Provo City Library), and the Maeser Builing on “campus hill.”

Maeser Building
Maeser Building

The museum has continued to grow and improve over the years. Recent awards include a State Certificate Award for Excellence in All Areas of Museum Operations as well as the 2011 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. Since 2000, the MPC has received over $250,000 in Federal and State grants for various research projects. In the same time period, $1.5 million in object and cash donations have significantly increased the quality of the collections.

All exhibits at the MPC are designed and installed by students in BYU’s museum certificate program. Public programs, like our popular date nights and FHEs, are also planned by student employees and volunteers.

Allen Hall Building History

Allen Hall
Allen Hall

Allen Hall was built in the late 1930s as a men’s dormitory. During World War II it became women’s housing. In the 1960s the building was adapted for use as a Language Training Mission (a pre-cursor to the MTC). This varied history is evident in the structure of the building. The galleries are located in what used to be the common and dining rooms when the building was student housing. The classroom was the kitchen, and the majority of offices were dorm rooms. The museum occupied the building since 1981 until it moved in 2015 to our current location on Canyon Road.