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Exhibitions

Past Exhibitions

Curious about our previous exhibitions? Click on the exhibition link below to read more about each exhibition.

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    Steps in Style (2017)
    Shoes give us traction, help us go faster, keep us going longer, and add a splash of style to our walk. They serve various functions, including protecting our feet from slimy mud, abrasive sands, and hard dry ground, as well as providing warmth in extreme cold, and keeping us cool in the heat. They allow us to glide across the ice, and elevate us above the snow.

    People across the world have developed shoes that serve a variety of purposes based on the terrain of their specific regions.

    The materials available and the diversity of each culture has helped shape and add personality to the shoes people wear.

    With advancements in technology, new trends of shoes have developed: in some cases, the shoes have become increasingly functional, in others, they are more stylish.

    The shoes displayed here reflect the personalities and needs of people across the world.
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    Greater than Gold: Textiles of the Ancient Andes (2016)
    Unlike our modern perspective on textiles, the ancient Andean people valued their fine fabrics above gold. Their fabrics played an active and essential role in money, politics, and power.

    The fabrics displayed in this exhibit come from parts of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia.
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    More than Stone and Mortar: Historical Archaeology at the Original Provo Tabernacle (2016)
    For over 150 years the Tabernacle block has been a center of civic and religious life in Provo, beginning with the Original Provo Tabernacle. The Office of Public Archaeology (OPA) at Brigham Young University was contracted to conduct excavations on the foundations of the Original Provo Tabernacle and other surrounding features. The items in this exhibit were recovered during excavation.

    Come explore the legacy of the Original Provo Tabernacle and the process of historical archaeology.
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    Second Stories (2015)
    Have you ever heard a story that was so riveting you simply had to hear it a second time? Second Stories is an exhibit that tells the compelling history of the Museum of Peoples and Cultures from its inception at the Lewis Building in 1879 through today.

    This exhibition emphasizes the work of students at the Museum under faculty supervision and mentorship.

    We realize that we have the opportunity to tell stories a second time when objects come to the Museum. The first stories come from the people who used them, their joys, sorrows, passions, and struggles. Because objects are a representation of someone, objects physically have the power to connect individuals and families from all places and times. We help ensure that the people who are represented by these artifacts are remembered and live forever through their stories. What's more, by caring for the artifacts at the Museum, we build up the Museum and help her tell her story. The Museum itself is made up of the people who, despite hardship, have worked to preserve the objects and the past. But museums shouldn't be the only place where history is preserved. Objects are also physical representations of your own experiences, who you are.
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    Nuchu: Voices of the Ute People (2014)
    This exhibit celebrates the rich heritage of the Ute throughout northeastern Utah, including Utah Valley. In the exhibit, their voices tell the story of their vibrant history and life.

    The exhibit contains items collected around the Vernal area of Utah during the 1930s and 1940s. The text and labels for this exhibit are taken from interviews with Ute tribal members over the past 15 years, providing an opportunity to hear how the Ute view the items and their own heritage. Helping to fulfill the MPC's mission to train future museum professionals, "students have combed through hours of interviews and texts, collaborated on the design of the galleries, and built the displays," Kari Nelson, curator of education, said.
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    Entwined: A Vibrant Heritage of the Modern Maya (2013)
    Entwined shows how past traditions are still a part of the modern Mayan world. The exhibition aims to showcase the modern Maya textiles as an art so as to diminish a stereotype of technological primitiveness. The items found through the exhibition emphasize the creative process involved in textile creation, including technology as it relates to this process. Textile artists often have a vision of the finished product months before the textile is even finished, and Entwined will help visitors to gain an awareness of cultural connections within Maya community as well as an appreciation of contemporary Mayan culture.
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    Mexican Masks: Concealing Faces, Revealing Expressions (2012)
    While we enjoy masks as rich, colorful works of art, we gain a deeper understanding by considering how masks are used in a particular culture and the meanings that the tradition-bearers bring to them.

    For thousands of years, people in what is now Mexico have used masks in religious rituals and festivals that celebrate shared community history and values.

    This exhibition explores mask use and adaptations in Mexico, from ancient Mesoamerica to modern Luchadores, and how, while concealing his face, a mask can in fact reveal the wearer's relationship with the world around him.

    Topics addressed:
    • Cultural influence and adaptation
    • Pre-Columbian civilizations of Mexico
    • Self-expression and shared community history and values
    • Masks as an art form
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    Beneath your Feet: Discovering the Archaeology of Utah Valley (2010-2012)
    People have lived in Utah Valley for thousands of years. Hunter-gatherers, known as the Archaic culture (6000 BC - AD 400), existed until the introduction of farming around AD 400. A culture reliant on farming, labeled as Fremont (AD 400 - 1300), lasted until drought and societal change pushed them from the Valley. Hunting-gathering groups, such as the later Ute, moved in making hunting-gathering the local lifestyle until Mormon settlers came in 1849.

    This exhibition focuses on the Fremont, those who lived and farmed here over one thousand years ago. Thriving off the abundant resources of the area, their communities surrounded Utah Lake in the same areas we have built our own towns. Through archaeology, the remains of the Fremont culture are providing an interesting, yet elusive, look into the history of Utah Valley.

    Modern development continues to obscure their homes, so we invite you to discover the history literally beneath our homes, streets, sidewalks, and gardens before their remains disappear forever.
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    New Lives: Building Community at Fourmile Ruin (2009-2011)
    Drought plagued the Southwest from AD 1276-1299. Many people abandoned their homes in search of new homes with permanent water sources and regular rainfall. Fourmile Ruin was located right next to a stream making it attractive to migrants who had spent many years wondering if there would be enough water for them to survive.

    The people already living at Fourmile Ruin welcomed them in and together they built up the community. The migrants brought different traditions and ways of life with them, and all the groups had to learn to live together. The architectural design of Fourmile Ruin helped the community come together. The room blocks were built around two central plazas, creating public spaces for the community to share.

    Pottery found at Fourmile Ruin shows that despite differing backgrounds, the inhabitants felt a sense of belonging to their new community. The presence of three distinct types of pottery shows that three different groups of people lived at Fourmile Ruin. Each group manufactured pottery using techniques they learned from their ancestors. Although all three groups came from different places, and made pottery in different ways, they all used the same symbols, or icons, to decorate the pottery they made.

    Listen to a fascinating discussion about the exhibition on KBYU-FM's Thinking Aloud.
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    Kachinas of the Southwest: Dances, Dolls, and Rain (2008-2010)
    Kachinas are an important part of Hopi religious ceremonies. The name Kachina itself means "spirit father" or "life father" (kachii, life or spirit; na, father) and indicates their importance to the Hopi people as bringers of rain. Kachina spirits dwell in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona for half the year, and spend the other half on the mesas visiting with the Hopi. The time the Kachinas spend with the Hopi is known as "Kachina season."

    The word kachina is used to reference at least three manifestations in Hopi culture. A kachina is a spirit that brings rain to the Hopi people. A kachina dancer has the sacred role of representing a Kachina spirit in ceremonial dances. During the dances, a Kachina dancer wears a mask and costume to appear like the Kachina and may hold a rattle or other object. A Kachina doll, or kachin tihü, is a depiction of a masked dancer and thus a Kachina spirit.

    The group of people who interact closest with the Kachina spirits are known as the Kachina cult. A cult in the anthropological sense is defined as a group that has beliefs and practices that involve supernatural powers. The word does not carry the negative connotation it has in Western society. Not every Hopi is a member of the Kachina cult and thus cannot participate in the ceremonies in the kivas, although any Hopi may watch the ceremonies performed in the plazas. The most important role Kachinas fulfill during Kachina Season is bringing rain to the mesas. They also teach the Hopi important lessons and promote the Hopi way of life.
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    Touching the Past: Traditions of Casas Grandes (2007-2009)
    The Casas Grandes culture thrived from the 13th to 15th centuries A.D. with Paquimé as its largest settlement in northern Mexico, about 150 miles southwest of El Paso, Texas. Paquimé was a great trade center, with influences reaching from cultures in the American Southwest to Mesoamerica in central and southern Mexico.

    The people of Casas Grandes created several different types of unique pottery, including effigy pots (in the shape of humans or animals), polychrome pottery (with patterns in different colors), and many other styles. This pottery was traded with many different groups until creation of the artistic pottery ended in the 15th century with the decline of Paquimé.

    Trade was by far one of the most prominent aspects of life in the Cases Grandes culture. Goods, including turquoise, obsidian, and shells, were traded to Paquimé. The people of Casas Grandes also imported Scarlet and Soldier Macaws from Mesoamerica. The vibrant and beautifully colored fearthers of these macaws were important to Casas Grandes rituals. Macaws were also used in rituals of Southwestern cultures, and Casas Grandes was the route through which these Southwestern peoples had access to macaws.

    In the mid-1900s, a boy name Juan Quezada found remnants of the ancient artistic pottery while out looking for firewood near the ruins of Paquimé. He decided that he would attempt to recreate the pottery, and after several attempts, started a revival that is ongoing today. This new style after the Casas Grandes pottery tradition is called Mata Ortiz pottery, named after Juan Quezada's hometown.

    The exhibition is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Utah Office of Museum Services.
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    Seeking the Divine: Ritual, Prayer and Celebration (2005-2008)
    This exhibition explores rituals and ceremonies that empower people to seek the divine, especially during crucial life events such as birth, coming-o-age, marriage, and death.

    The instruments of humanity's spiritual quest are myriad. African fertility figurines calm the anxieties of barrenness, while Polynesian tapas celebrate the hoys of birth. Native American weeding jars and baskets commemorate the ultimate coming-of-age, while accoutrements of death from Mesoamerica immortalize life's culminating moment. Statuettes of saints adorning the household shrines of Mexico assist personal worship, while masked dances publicly re-enact stories that reinforce community values and extol the interdependency of life. Ritual smoke and Tibetan prayer wheels send prayers heavenward, and African divination vessels summon the invisible forces and solicit their intervention.

    Globally, a sense of divinity drives people to seek spiritual guidance and celebrate life's blessings. Understanding this universality helps Earth's many peoples cross cultural and religious barriers and discover our common humanity.

    Seeking the Divine is funded in part by the Utah Office of Museum Services and BYU Office of Research and Creative Activities.