Envision: Using STEM to Investigate Ancient Cultures, at the MPC

Interact with Archeology at Museum of Peoples and Cultures New Exhibit

If you want to witness archeology in action you aren’t limited to watching Indiana Jones; you can be a part of it right on BYU’s campus at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures. See for yourself the math, science, and technology used to reveal the past in the Museum’s new exhibit Envision: Innovative Exploration in Archaeology.

Opening on Monday September 11, 2017 with a reception from 6:30-8:30 pm, individuals will be able to interact with technologies like the solar-powered supply trailer used in excavations and thermal imaging cameras, as well as learn about modern research methods. Visitors can complete circuits using a solar panel and simulate separating contaminants from DNA fragments. Families and individuals will see how STEM plays a part in archaeological exploration and innovation.

“We anticipate exhibition visitors will come to envision archaeology in new ways as they learn about the innovative trends in this field” said Brianna Selph, MPC Guest Services Assistant. Museum staff hope that all visitors will, through their interaction with the exhibit, come away equipped with the knowledge and tools to make connections between archaeology, STEM fields, and their own lives.

The Museum of Peoples and Cultures’ Mission is to “inspir[e] students to life-long learning.” Learn, experience, and understand archeology on a new level at Envision: Innovative Explorations in Archaeology, open September 11, 2017. This exhibit will provide ample hands-on experience to individuals looking to make connections between themselves, science, and the ancient peoples and cultures we continue to learn more about every day.

The exhibit, which will run until February 2018,  is free to the public. For more information about the exhibition or reception, visit mpc.byu.edu.

Students: Five Ways to Stay Sharp This Summer

Summer may be for lazy days and having fun with your friends, but that doesn’t mean you should stop learning! Here are 5 ways to stay sharp and have fun this summer!

Find Your Club!

Even though clubs aren’t very active during the Spring and Summer, you can still sort through them at BYU’s clubs’ website and pick which one you want to join in Fall/Winter! Here are some quick links to more information about clubs within our college:

Courtesy of BYU Refugee Empowerment Club’s Facebook page

Visit the Museum of Peoples and Cultures!

Learn all about ancient and more modern civilizations at this museum. Current exhibits include Piecing Together Paquimé, which features the remnants of the city from A.D. 1200-1450, and Steps in Style, which features shoes from a plethora of cultures and time periods.

Courtesy of the MPC Facebook page

Hit up the Library!

Here at BYU, we have one of the best libraries ever! It’s full of cool rooms and exhibits and awesome movies and books. So take time this summer to explore the HBLL and find some great books! Highlights of the HBLL include:

Courtesy of the HBLL Facebook page

Brush up on your Writing Skills

Whether you’re taking classes this summer or not, you can always improve your writing. FHSS’ Writing Lab offers many tools both on-campus and online to help you with that. Take a few moments to brush up on these skills, so you don’t have to do it in the middle of trying to meet a million assignment deadlines:

  • Formatting a paper Turabian style
  • Structuring your paper
  • Writing a conclusion
  • Citing APA style


Watch YouTube Videos!

Did you know that FHSS has two YouTube channels? Every other week, we post videos about the intricacies of daily life and how to live within them.

What are your summer plans?

Museum of Peoples and Cultures Ranked Among Top 50 College Museums

BYU is known around the world for it sports and top notch law and business school. But, did you know it’s also renowned for its museums? College Values Online recently ranked BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures on their list of the “50 Most Impressive College Museums 2017-2018.” 

Courtesy of the MPC Facebook Page

BYU’s museum specializes in artifacts of the anthropological, archaeological, and ethnographic varieties,” said the online college ranking company, who selected those top 50 out of hundreds of college museums in the US based on the breadth of their permanent collections and whether or not they included recognizable artifacts that could successfully appeal to a variety of audiences . “Highlights include shell necklaces from Polynesia and pottery from the American Southwest, though hundreds of countries and cultures are represented here. The museum also offers dozens of programs and classes offered each month for museum visitors of all ages.”

Current exhibits at the MPC include Steps in Style, featuring shoes from various countries and eras, and Piecing Together Paquime, which takes visitors on an archaeological journey through an ancient Paquime city. The museum will also be hosting upcoming summer camps, as well as these activities:

  • Date nights
  • Merit Badge Blitz
  • Museum camps
  • FHS nights
  • Mommy Meet Up
  • Utah Lake Festival

The museum also lends out culture cases containing educational materials to classes in order to further anthropological learning. 

steps in style
Courtesy of the MPC website

 The Mission

 The mission of the Museum of Peoples and Cultures is: “to serve the academic mission of BYU and care for the anthropological, archaeological, and ethnographic collections in the custody of the University. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures is BYU’s Teaching Museum, inspiring students to life-long learning and service and mentoring them in collections-focused activities that reinforce BYU ideals of education as spiritually strengthening, intellectually enlarging, and character building. These activities concurrently serve the scholarly community, the LDS community, and/or the general public and aspire to the highest standards of stewardship and public trust.”  The museum fulfills their mission in the following ways:

  • Gathering and maintaining artifacts
  • Providing an educational setting for BYU students
  • “Facilitating teaching and research on peoples and cultures by BYU faculty, staff, students, and by members of the scholarly community in peer institutions”
  • Utilizing research, exhibitions, and activities to formulate new knowledge
  • Teaching people about cultures and peoples


mpc 2
Courtesy of the MPC website

 The museum was formed shortly after the Archaeology Department was instituted in 1946. It has been housed in numerous buildings over the years, including the Maesar Building, the Eyring Science Center, and the Academy Building. (Currently, the Provo library.) Aside from its inclusion in College Values Online’s list, the museum has the been the recipient of a plethora of awards and grants including a State Certificate Award for Excellence in All Areas of Museum Operations and 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.

With its rich events and creative exhibitions, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures is truly an educational and anthropological treasure that all BYU staff, alumni, and students can be proud of, and that the public can enjoy.

Have you been to the MPC?

BYU Museum Day Camp for Teenagers Offers Unique Perspective

For the first time ever, BYU will offer a summer day camp for teenagers who want to get a behind-the-scenes perspective of its museums. Youth ages 13 to 15 who are interested in museums, museum careers, art, paleontology, anthropology, or biology will enjoy this camp. During either of two four-day sessions the second or third full weeks of June 2017, they will have a number of opportunities to expand their skills in

  • Critical thinking
  • Design thinking
  • Writing and english
  • Science
  • Creativity and art

The camps will involve the Museums of Art, Paleontology, Peoples and Cultures, and the Bean Life Science Museum.

museum camp
Courtesy of MPC’s Facebook event page

Kari Ross Nelson, Curator of Education at BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures, says: “We’ve been cultivating the idea of a Museum Camp for a while, so we’re excited to see it happening.  We’re excited to have all the Museums on BYU Campus working together for great variety throughout the week.” Instead of screen time, participants will have immersive, hands-on time seeing live animal shows, creating their own exhibits, tie-dying their camp shirts, and replicating fossils. The camp costs $139 which covers lunch, snacks, classroom supplies, a T-shirt, field trips, and teaching.

Jessica Simpson, a graduate student studying Archaeology and one of the camp’s staff members, provides her perspective on this unique opportunity: “Campers will have fun seeing what no one else sees from the perspective of museum professionals.” Go to museum.ce.byu.edu for more information and registration.

What’s your favorite on-campus museum?



You Think You Have Old Shoes? You Should See New Old Shoe Exhibit

On October 17th 2016, BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures will open its shoe exhibition titled Steps in Style. The exhibition will display a collection of shoes from around the globe and shoes from various time periods. Additionally, the exhibition will include an interactive portion for young visitors. The museum is free general admission.

Steps in Style

“Shoes are something all cultures have in common. Having this point of connection helps us relate to each other,” says Jaquelyn Johnson, the doctorate student spearheaded the curation, design, and installation of this exhibition. Similarly, our choice of shoe style reflects our personalities and circumstances. The shoes in the exhibit reflect the personalities and needs of people across the world.

The highlights of the collection are bone skates, moccasins from various Native American nations, wooden clogs, intricately beaded slippers, and Caribou boots. A pair of Samoan sandals made of tapa cloth, woven coconut leaves, and coconut seeds. Of the mocassions, Johnson points out that they “show how much time and effort went into creating such a unique shoe. Today, we go to the store without putting nearly any time or thought into the purchase.”

Families, scout groups, students, and people of all ages are welcome to explore this unique exhibition, says Lacy Schmoekel, promotions manager at the museum.

BYU Student Uses Microscope to Find Origin of Ancient Looted Textiles

microscope-275984_1280In 2014, the Museum of peoples and Cultures at BYU acquired a collection of Pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles. Similar to many ancient textiles, these were originally obtained by looters rather than archaeologists. As a result, the textiles came to the museum like a solitary puzzle piece – out of context, with no instructions or explanation attached.

Taralea Foster, student of anthropology at BYU, put the textiles under a microscope to determine their cultural origins, as well as ways the textiles were likely used in the past.

To determine the origins of the textiles, one might expect an anthropologist to simply compare their designs and colors to similar textiles, and then make an educated guess. However, taking the analysis to a microscopic level made it possible to link the textiles to a more specific region. Under the microscope, the materials in the textiles were discovered to be a combination of cotton and camelid wool. Foster also determined that the spin of the thread fibers, the textiles’ thread count, and the weaving techniques used to make them were all representative of textiles from a specific Peruvian region.

Coast of Huanchaco, Peru – a city in the region the textiles were made

Taralea concluded that each of the five textiles she analyzed were probably from the northern or central coastal regions of Peru. They were woven by people of the Chancay or Chimu cultures, likely during the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1500 AD), and were likely used in tapestries or as garments.

Comparing the technical aspects of her textiles to those from other collections, Taralea was able to reconstruct the previously unknown cultural contexts of the five looted textiles and place them in their proper cultural and temporal position. The recovered information gives the textiles a new significance to the museum and will be used in their future research and display. The museum, in general, boasts many student-curated exhibits,  programs that are open to the public, and resources available to educators:

“For a lot of the cultures we have [featured at the museum], there were no written records,” says Paul Stavast, director of the MPC. “These objects are what the people left behind. This is how we understand who they were.”

Understanding the past takes teams of scholars and students to piece together the puzzle and build a comprehensible reconstruction of the past. Professors and students like Taralea Foster contribute to the rich scholarship and education at BYU that blesses the lives and enriches the minds of students everywhere.

Foster’s research was presented in this winning poster at the 2015 Mary Lou Fulton Conference:

Taralea Forster Poster

What is your favorite exhibit at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures?

Two New Exhibits at Museum of Peoples and Cultures

Two exhibits recently opened at our own Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Located on north Canyon Road in Provo, just a couple of blocks northwest of campus, the museum is open to the general public and is, in fact, a treat for students and families alike. Both the Greater Than Gold: Textiles of the Ancient Andes and the More Than Stone: Historical Archaeology of the Original Provo Tabernacle exhibits are designed and curated by students.


The Greater Than Gold exhibit illustrates the extiles for the ancient Andean people. Without a formal written language, the unspoken messages were communicated in other ways, one of those ways being cloth. Fine textiles were a sign of social status, wealth, and power. For this reason, there were many influences of textiles and cloth on culture and behavior.

Of the More Than Stone exhibit, Jess Simpson, a grad student at BYU who was able to volunteer during the excavation of the former tabernacle and meetinghouse, along with many other students. Of the experience she said, “my favorite part was finding things. I was right next to Haylie when she pulled a tiny doll with a painted face, and I found another little metal trinket. It was neat to see things that somebody loved a long time ago. These people loved this building and were there often enough to lose things like buttons and coins and toys. I think that that is a testament to the faith of the saints that settled here – they loved their church buildings.”

The exhibits opened during an open house on January 19th, and will be celebrated during the upcoming BYU Night at the Museums, in collaboration with five other campus museums, on January 29th, as well as during a Peruvian Date Night on February 12th. For more information on those events, please visit the MPC’s website, follow them on Facebook, or check out BYU’s calendar.