Museum of Peoples and Cultures bring new worlds to Provo

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Many different cultures’ traditions and stories from across the globe have made their way into the hearts and minds of  an unexpected Provo demographic.

BYU’s Museum of People of Cultures hosts Stories from Around the Globe, an event where different stories from around the world are read, Fridays at 11 a.m. The program, which runs during fall, winter and spring semesters, takes stories from other cultures and reads them to toddler and pre-school age children. The weekly attendance count for the kids varies from as few as three to as many as 20.

Kari Nelson, curator of education for the museum, created this program in the fall of 2008 after seeing the impact of reading to her own children. She discovered how kids love to listen to stories and there are so many different folk tales from other cultures that give a window into the cultures that they’re from. Each week, Nelson chooses a different theme, like monkeys or Chinese New Year, and an interactive activity for the children to participate in that represents certain cultures.

“It’s a great way to introduce the youngest museum visitors to cultures through their stories,” Nelson said.

According to Nelson, one museum docent in particular has taken the program under her wing and made it come alive for the children.

Amy Warner, a junior from Maryland studying European studies, first became involved with the museum when her scholarship required her to complete volunteer work. Warner kept getting emails from the Humanities Department about the museum and after meeting Nelson and seeing what the museum did, Warner found what she was looking for. In January 2011, after another docent could no longer run story time, Warner happily took over and refuses to give it up.

“I made sure I had the time free for [story time],” Warner said. “It’s so much fun that unless you have to take a class at that time, you don’t want to give it up.”

One of Warner’s favorite themes has been Chinese New Year. She said the books and the activity of making red paper lanterns with the children was a huge hit. Ultimately, no matter what the theme is, it’s the reaction of the children that makes it worthwhile for Warner.

“Their eyes just get so big … and they’re connecting with the story, and they say something and get this look,” Warner said. “It’s just so exciting to watch them grow to love the stories. And maybe they’ll grow to love reading.”

Museum promotions manager Anna McKean has noticed the impact of the story telling on the kids. McKean said she believes it is a great activity for the kids to experience something different than a typical school activity. She said it’s a great way to expose young children to new cultures.

“It’s something that they can come to and be in a context of a museum that’s focused on different cultures and learning about the world,” McKean said. “We love it here.”

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