Museum of Peoples and Cultures invites visitors to take a look behind the masks

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From the ancient Mayans to trick-or-treaters at Halloween, cultures across the world have used masks to embrace a new identity or hide from curious eyes.

Since April 2012, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures has housed a unique exhibit dedicated to the art of masks and their use in Mexican culture called “Concealing Faces, Revealing Expressions.” The exhibit will close in a few months.

The Museum of Peoples and Cultures’ mask exhibit houses masks from all influences. (Courtesy Kari Nelson)

The art of masking has been going since prehistoric times. In Mexican culture, the  making and using of masks are used as part of religious and cultural ceremonies that celebrate the history and values of its communities.

Kari Nelson, curator of education at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, explained the history behind masks in Mexican culture.

“The masks (in the exhibition) extend from ancient Mesoamerica, masks influenced by the explorers and Europeans, all the way to the modern luchador masks,” Nelson said. “It’s interesting to see how these masks have changed and stayed the same throughout history.”

Nelson added that although Mexican culture has evolved and changed with the world, the masks have evolved right along with them.

The large collection of masks in the exhibition were donated to the museum about 20 years ago and are being displayed until this fall to make way for a new exhibition on the Ute Indians.

In reference to the exhibition, Nelson mentioned the purpose of the museum in teaching the community.

“The museum’s role is to teach people about peoples and cultures, so this is a way to learn about different cultures and understand what they do and why they do it and how it’s not so different from what we do,” Nelson said.

 

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