Provo Resident Honored for “Remarkable Contributions” to Utah’s History

Longtime Provo resident John Hinckley was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Board of State History for his lasting contributions. Through his work, Hinckley provided countless opportunities for experiential learning and has inspired the next generation of Utah archaeologists.

Through the preservation of priceless Fremont archaeological sites on his land, Hinckley has turned his property into an outdoor classroom where BYU students are mentored in archaeological excavation and research. This tradition was begun by his father, G. Marion Hinckley, who allowed BYU professors to bring students to do field archaeology on Hinckley land since the 1940s.

Since then, hundreds of students have discovered artifacts and participated in excavations at the Hinckley Mounds, including students from both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. During a 2015 field school, Hinckley opened the Fremont sites to the public, and over 600 fourth graders studying Utah history and prehistory visited. Boy Scout groups participated in the excavation and earned their Archaeology merit badges.

“(The site) has been a boon to our educational endeavors,” said BYU anthropology professor Michael T. Searcy. Searcy said finding artifacts on the Hinckley property helps students connect with the past, and in many instances, it has led students to choose archaeology as a career.

Searcy said Hinckley’s protection of Fremont artifacts, despite losing acres of his property to Provo City due to eminent domain, is impressive, and the Hinckley Mounds are some of the last archaeological remains of a large Fremont village.

“I have personally worked with Mr. Hinckley for many years and seen his humble, strong support
for protecting the past,” BYU research archaeologist Scott M. Ure said. “He is a steward of the past in every sense of the word, and I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for Utah’s Division of State History 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award.”

A reception will be held in Hinckley’s honor tonight at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures from 7-8 p.m. Join us to celebrate his outstanding accomplishments.

BYU and UVU student surveying the fields at Hinckley Farms. (Michael Searcy)

Native Peoples of Utah County Highlighted in New Exhibit

A new “Utah Valley” exhibit at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures invites visitors to get to know the people who once inhabited Utah County.

“A lot of people who live in Utah Valley don’t realize there is a long history here,” museum director Paul Stavast says. “They just assume its history begins maybe just a little bit before the pioneers got here. That is not correct at all. People have lived in Utah Valley for thousands of years.” 

The exhibit features artifacts from the Archaic, Fremont, and Ute peoples, as well as Mormon pioneer artifacts excavated from the ruins of the Provo Tabernacle. Walking through the small gallery, visitors can examine a horse “quirt” used to spur horses in Ute horse races, or see canine bones dating back to around 3,600 B.C.

History student Hannah Smith helped select the artifacts for the displays, and under the direction of Stavast, she was responsible for the research and text for the exhibit. Her work was part of an internship for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures and later turned into a regular, continuing student position.

nnah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)
Above: Hannah Smith poses with Hayden Crofts at the Utah Valley Exhibit. Smith played a major role in the research, text, and design for the exhibit. (Hannah Smith)

“The internship was a custom experience for me,” Smith says. “I was able to experience many different types of museum work: with the administration, with technicians, archaeologists, etc. I was able to experience so much and it really impacted the work and the exhibit that went up. It was perfect.”

Smith hopes to have a career working in museums and designing exhibits in particular. “Working in a museum is cool, because I can use my research but also my creativity,” she says.

Student participation like Smith’s was central to the success of the project. Stavast had students in his anthropology classes workshop possible ideas for the exhibit. Students were also responsible for the design, promotion, fabrication, installation, and object registration to get the new gallery off the ground. 

Above: Ute moccasins decorated with dyed porcupine quills. The exhibit includes artifacts used in cooking, hunting, dancing, etc. by the Ute tribe as well as other indigenous peoples. (Aaron Barnes)

“We want to give students an experience from beginning to end so that they have an understanding of what it takes to put an exhibition together — even on a small scale — so they have a framework for their future careers,” Stavast says.

Both Stavast and Smith say they hope the exhibit invites Utah residents to reflect on the place where they live. Stavast also hopes seeing the exhibit will remind visitors of the rich history in Utah county so that in the wake of booming development that history can be preserved rather than destroyed. There are over 2,000 archaeological sites in Utah county alone.

“No matter where you go, there’s a lot more history than you might initially realize,” Stavast said. “Take the time to find out who lived in the places where you live. There are sites all over. Learn about them, respect them, and preserve them.”

The Utah Valley exhibit will be on display for at least five years and will likely be modified with additional pieces from sites in Payson, Goshen, and Provo.

For more information about the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, visit their website.