BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures Highlights Ute Indians

Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 19 March 2014

A display in the Ute Indian exhibition at BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures demonstrates the tribe’s intricate beadwork.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

Article Highlights

  • Nuchu: Voice of the Ute People, an exhibition that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Ute Indian tribe, is on display in the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

In a campus replete with sprawling classroom buildings and towering athletic facilities, BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures is easy to miss.

Located near the southwest corner of the Church-owned school, the diminutive museum is housed in what was once the Allen Hall men’s dormitory. The building was later used in the 1960s as a language-training center for missionaries.

But what the facility lacks in square footage it makes up for in educational and historical significance.

And, as legions of young visitors will attest, the museum is a lot of fun.

As part of BYU’s archaeology department, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures provides the school a permanent facility to display archaeological objects from its vast collection.

But the museum also doubles as a classroom. The exhibits are designed and installed by both graduate and undergraduate students in BYU’s museum certificate program. The students also take the lead in planning and staging public programs such as student date nights and family home evenings at the museum.

“We also host quite a few school tours and offer activities for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts,” said education curator Kari Nelson, who also said programs are being developed for Girl Scouts.

The museum’s current major exhibition celebrates the rich history and culture of the Ute Indian tribe found throughout northeastern Utah. Nuchu: Voice of the Ute People features a variety of clothing, tools, beadwork, and other objects that tell the story of an indigenous people who continue to call Utah home.

Decorative bead-laden moccasins are included in the Ute Indian exhibition at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Most of the items in the exhibition were collected around the Vernal, Utah, area during the 1930s and 1940s, according to the museum. Text and display labels augment Nuchu with information gleaned from student-conducted interviews with members of the Ute tribe.

The museum also serves as a research facility for anthropology students involved in a variety of projects. One such project was the recent excavation of the historic Provo Tabernacle, which was largely destroyed by fire in 2010. The Church is rebuilding the former tabernacle into the future Provo City Center Temple.

BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures is located at 700 North 100 East in Provo, Utah. Tours may be arranged by calling 801-422-0020.

Artifacts are on display at the Ute Indian exhibition at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Artifacts from the recent excavation of the Provo Tabernacle site are on display at the BYU Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Photo by Jason Swensen.