The Museum of Peoples and Cultures serves as BYU's anthropological museum, displaying research and artifacts collected by staff, faculty, and students. Throughout its existence, the MPC has been actively involved in the community of Provo and the field of anthropology.
The Museum of Peoples and Cultures (MPC) makes up one of several museums at Brigham Young University. The MPC features the archaeological and anthropological findings and work of both staff, university faculty, and students. Since its original inception in the late 1940s, the museum has served as both entertaining and educational.
In 1946, BYU’s archaeological department was formed. The resulting research and artifacts called for a showcase, which was housed on the lower floor of the Eyring Science Center. Soon, in 1961, the museum moved to the basement of the Maeser Building. Twenty years later, the museum settled into Allen Hall and received its name, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures. Here, the MPC featured a plethora of exhibits, including some curated and crafted by students through the anthropology department. In 1985, the museum was cited as having more than 500,000 artifacts from various parts of the world including the Middle East and Afrcia. Currently, the exhibits focus on Mesoamerican, Ute, Freemont, and early settler history.
In 1985, the Museum hosted an exhibit on Tell Qarqur, a major archaeological site in Western Syria. One artifact was a ceramic “Mother Goddess” figurine symbolizing fertility. That same year, the school began fundraising efforts to expand current facilities housing the collections. Additionally, they announced a $10 million project for a complex of museums including a new building for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, a fine arts museum, an earth sciences museum, an exhibit hall, and a language pavilion. However, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures did not get a new building until 2015, when it moved to its current location.
The MPC was also widely involved in the community of Provo and the field of archaeology. In 1986, the museum hosted a dig for students and community members in Southern Utah of an Anasazi village ruin. The Anasazi people were dated to live in the area between 1150 and 1250 A.D. The museum also sponsored a dig in Salt Lake City when, while excavating for new condominiums, construction workers came upon a pioneer cemetery and two pit houses over 800 years old.
The museum became a popular destination for field trips. Also for kids, the museum hosted “Stories from Around the Globe.” This was an interactive storytelling experience for toddler and preschool-age children. Storytellers narrated folk tales from different cultures. Then the children participated in an activity inspired by the story. For older patrons, the museum held block parties and date nights. Also, in an effort to draw in crowds during the priesthood session held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which only male members of the church attended, the museum held a “Girl’s Night Out” event.
The Museum of Peoples and Cultures' contribution to Provo and to the archaeological community has been recognized numerous times. In 2011, the museum won the “Leadership in History” award from the American Association for State and Local History for their exhibit, “Beneath Your Feet: Discovering the Archeology of Utah Valley.” Additionally, in 2017-2018, the museum was ranked one of the 50 Most Impressive College Museums. The museum continues to house artifacts and exhibits and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9-5.