Musuem of Peoples and Cultures Hosts Research Symposium

Anna McKean

The fall of 2011 marks the 50th anniversary for BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures (MPC). In honor of this occasion, the MPC will showcase the history of archaeology and museums at BYU at a Research Symposium on Thursday, November 10th. The symposium is open to the public and will run from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. in room B192 of the Joseph Fielding Smith Building (JFSB) at BYU.

The MPC houses BYU’s collections of archaeological and anthropological artifacts from South America, Mesoamerica, the American Southwest, the Great Basin, Polynesia, and other locations. While an anthropology museum on campus was not founded until 1961, BYU’s collections began much earlier. As early as 1892, BYU began accumulating artifacts. President Benjamin Cluff encouraged the beginning of collections and led a collecting expedition to Mexico from 1900 to 1902.

Collecting antiquities at BYU grew even more in the mid-1930s with the help of Dr. Albert Reagan, BYU’s first anthropologist, and Dr. George Hansen, professor of geology. BYU’s Department of Anthropology was established in 1946, and was housed, along with its collections, in the Eyring Science Center. In 1961, the department and collections were moved to the Maeser Building and the Museum of Archaeology was established. In 1982, the collections were moved to Allen Hall and the Museum was renamed as the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

The symposium will highlight current anthropological scholarship among BYU students. Each hour of the symposium will showcase a different aspect of archaeology and anthropology at BYU.

“We have students doing archaeological and anthropological work all over the globe—in Ghana, Mesoamerica, the Near East, and even Utah,” Paul Stavast, director of the MPC, said. “The symposium gives them a chance to come back and share their research with fellow students, faculty, and the public.”

Beginning at 1:00 p.m., BYU graduate students will present research on current archaeological projects with locations ranging from Utah’s wilderness to the Middle East. From 2:00 until 3:00, students will discuss the history of archaeology and museums at BYU.

The symposium’s keynote speaker is Dr. Benjamin Pykles, Curator of Historic Sites for the LDS Church History Department. Dr. Pykles will present, “The Negotiation of Cultural Identity at Iosepa: Utah’s Pacific Islander Mormon Settlement,” at 3:00 p.m.

The symposium will conclude with an hour-long session for undergraduate research posters from 4:00-5:00. Light refreshments will be served during the poster session. The symposium is open to the public. For more information visit or call 801.422.0020.