Jeffrey Kent Romney, Anthropology/ Archaeology
During the Fall of 1993 I submitted an application for a research grant through your office and received a $1,000 scholarship on December 9, 1993. My proposed project was to design an exhibition on Casas Grandes at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures here at BYU. The Museum holds a large collection of unique artifacts from this culture. The idea for an exhibit using this collection first carne to mind after doing some research on these collections during the Summer of 1993. Starting in January 1994, therefore, I began the process of research necessary to formulate the informative background for the exhibit.
The title given to the exhibit was, ultimately, Paquime and the Casas Grandes Culture. The purpose of the exhibit was to highlight Paquime’s (another name for Casas Grandes) importance as a center of regional trade and culture during the 13th and 14th centuries AD. Originally our plans were to design and install a modest exhibit that would be displayed in a few of the cases in the galleries at the museum, but it quickly blossomed into a much more rewarding experience than I anticipated, which benefited both the Museum and myself. After much research and planning we realized the potential of the project and decided that the entire gallery space would be devoted to the exhibition. Hence, the final exhibit design encompassed two galleries.
The first gallery discusses Casas Grandes regional history, trade, the fluorescent period at Paquime, and the different styles of architecture found at the site. A large closet space was converted into a model of a residence at ancient Paquime to give visitors a glimpse of what a typical family quarters might have looked like at Paquime in the 1200s. AD. I enjoyed creating this room. It is made almost entirely out of styrofoam panels and has been sanded, molded, and painted to resemble an actual structure at Paquime. Mr. Gene Riggs from the Museum of Art was generous in his advice for the reconstruction of this room and other items in the exhibit.
The second gallery discusses Paquime ceramic styles, religion, agriculture, aviculture, and the different crafts (shell, coppersmithing, textiles and basketry) created at Casas Grandes.
Originally, I had planned on using $350.00 of the grant funds to pay for necessary supplies. However, once we expanded our exhibit plans, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures generously matched the $1000.00 of the grant by at least 200% to cover the cost of supplies, etc. I was therefore able to use the entire $1000.00 as salary to allow me to dedicate the necessary time to the project.
The most challenging aspect of the exhibit design process to me proved to be organizing all of the necessary information into a clear and understandable format that the general public would find both useful and informative. This learning experience was greatly enhanced by the fact that Dr. Marti LuAllen and Dr. Joel C. Janetski spent many hours in counselling me on how to do this.
I feel that this experience has added greatly to my interest in and appreciation of museum programs and procedures. It has added to my museum work experience and has helped me develop skills that I am confident will be useful to me in professional life. Among these are conceptualizing thematic programs and honing my writing skills. Before beginning this project I really had no idea just how much work and planning was involved in creating an exhibition for public viewing. Now I do have a realistic idea of what is involved. This experience has been commensurate to an advanced course in museum practices or to an actual internship. Thanks to the “partnership” that developed between myself and the museum, I actually did far more than design the exhibit. I was able to bring my design to fruition by installing it in a brand new gallery. This exhibit will open to the public on September 16, 1994. All of the cases have not been fitted with artifacts yet, but will be within the coming week. I will send photographs of the exhibit to your office at the end of September once everything has been finalized.
My thanks once again to the Office of Research and Creative Work for awarding the grant and making my involvement in this exhibit possible. It is a good program and I hope that students here at Brigham Young University will continue to benefit from it.