It is Monday night. Bold patterned, animal-like wooden masks stare down students south of campus. At the northern end of campus, students inspect Islamic calligraphy on ancient scrolls and massive stone sculptures. Somewhere west of campus, a snake twists around the arm of a wide-eyed student, who listens to the animal expert listing off the snake’s favorite foods.
BYU’s different museums and art programs offer Family Home Evening activities that are unheard of at other colleges. Instead of going the scripture bookmarking route, some FHE groups take advantage of what BYU’s museums and exhibits have to offer.
Lela Machado, a public policy graduate student, went to the Museum of Peoples and Cultures for her FHE activity on Sept. 25. She said she especially enjoyed the tour of the Mayan textiles exhibit.
“They have all sorts of unique pieces,” Machado said. “It was interesting to see how they preserved this culture for hundreds and hundreds of years and they still wear the same traditional clothing, whereas our western culture has changed from just fifty years ago.”
Not only did her FHE group get a tour of the exhibits at the museum, but they also got to make their own animal masks. The Museum of Peoples and Cultures holds almost 100 unique Mexican folk masks, most of which are on display. Mexicans would use these masks both in religious ceremonies and in street festivals.
“I made myself a jaguar mask,” Machado said smiling. “Some of the people in my group wore their masks all the way back to the apartments.”
A more well-known spot for students to have activities is the Monte L. Bean Museum on campus. The Bean Museum outreach program entertains students on Monday nights with both live and stuffed animals as part of their FHE activities.
Katy Knight, an educational administrator at the museum, said that although the Bean Museum is temporarily closed to the public for renovations, the FHE activities and other shows helps them stay connected with the Provo community. The educators will go anywhere in Provo for free.
“We do our most popular show for the FHEs, and that’s the reptile show,” Knight said. “Every time there’s a show, there’s at least three different kinds of reptiles.”
The educators from the Bean Museum bring a different kind of snake, turtle and lizard to each of the shows along with dead specimens like the ones on display in their building.
“We encourage people to touch the reptiles and learn about them,” Knight said. “It’s fun for our educators too because they’re doing the show with their peers when we do the outreaches.”
Charlotte McFarland, an education assistant at the museum, explained what happens in an FHE reptile show.
“We teach a little about the animals themselves: what makes a turtle a turtle, what makes a lizard a lizard,” she said. “They (college students) seem to enjoy the fact that they don’t have to do anything and the animals come to them.”
BYU’s own Museum of Art offers tours to FHE groups earlier on Monday afternoons or later in the evenings on other weeknights, to cater towards those FHE groups that aren’t able to meet on Monday nights.
Students can tour the museum and view art pieces from many different time periods, from original medieval alabaster stone sculptures to Andy Warhol’s iconic pop art.
Charlotte England, a docent (tour guide) at the museum, said she has given many tours for FHE groups over the past five years she has worked at the Museum of Art.
“BYU gets some really amazing exhibits and some of the exhibits have only stopped at two other places in the country,” England said. “You learn new things, other than what you are learning in school so it’s a nice break.”