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Temporary Exhibits

Cuneiform and Cultural Heritage: Writing, New Ways of Being, and Displaced Artifacts

End Date: Saturday, March 30, 2024

Administrative tablet in clay envelope with seal impressions. King Shulgi of Ur, 2094-2047 BCE. MMA 67.34.1

In 1967, Museum Director Frank C. Hibben donated a small collection of inscribed clay tablets to the UNM Anthropology Museum (now the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology). These tablets, dating between 4100 and 1600 years ago, come from Mesopotamia in modern Southwest Asia, home to the world’s first cities, states, and writing systems.

Since their decipherment in the 1850s, tablets inscribed in cuneiform (wedge-shaped) script have provided insights into the economic, social, and religious lives of ancient Mesopotamians. They have also circulated around the world—as a result of colonial era archaeological expeditions, looting, and rampant site destruction fueled by terrorism, war, and economic desperation.

This exhibition highlights the eight cuneiform tablets in the Maxwell Museum collections and our attempts to uncover their journey to Albuquerque. It explores what such artifacts, once removed from their archaeological context, can – and cannot – teach us about the Mesopotamian past. It also explores the past and present legacies of the removal and destruction of cultural heritage and current efforts toward the restoration and restitution of archaeological heritage in the Middle East and far beyond.

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We Were Basket Makers Before We Were Pueblo People

End Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

In July 2022, a group of distinguished Pueblo artists and knowledge holders came to the Maxwell Museum to view a selection of Pueblo baskets from the museum’s collections. This group was composed of Louie García (Tiwa/Piro Pueblo), Christopher Lewis (Zuni), Jilli M. Oyenque (Ohkay Owingeh), Paul Tosa (Jemez Pueblo), Madeline Tosa (Jemez Pueblo), and Brian Vallo (Acoma Pueblo). Accompanying them was anthropologist and UNM alumnus, Dr. Bruce Bernstein.

The group generously shared knowledge about the varied techniques, uses, and meanings embedded within these baskets, and together, with museum staff and guest co-curator Dr. Bernstein, they agreed to co-curate an exhibition presenting these rarely seen objects to the public. The result is "We Were Basket Makers Before We Were Pueblo People: Pueblo Baskets in Context" which is housed in the Alfonso Ortiz Center Gathering Space of the Museum.

Like the fibers that make up these intricate baskets themselves, the voices of the co-curators are independent powerful strands of understanding that come together to offer us a greater appreciation of the artwork and its signficance. Come see the exhibit which will be on display through January 2024, in conjuction with our other temporary exhibit on baskets, "Conversing with the Land: Native North American Baskets of the Maxwell Museum Collections."

This exhibit is in part sponsored by the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies.



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Conversing with the Land: Native North American Baskets of the Maxwell Museum Collection

End Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

This exhibition celebrates Native North American basketry traditions as seen through the collections in the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. On display are finished objects: works of artistry, complexity, beauty, and use. Behind each basket is a deeper story. Their stories connect us to the lands on which they were made and to the materials from which they were constructed, embedded with profound seasonal knowledges and long-standing commitments to nurture and protecting the land for future generations.
Baskets hold stories of techniques passed within communities over generations, and of skills honed through years of practice. We do not hear the conversations, prayers, laughter, and songs shared among basket makers and users, but they are also present in these objects. And each also tells of use and needs: to store, to carry, to gift, to celebrate, to mourn, to sell, to repair; and to purchase, collect, and display. The lessons of these baskets and their makers are not solely of the past. They are also of the present and future. They are stories of survivance, persistence, pride, creativity, and of the ongoing work to protect the land and maintain knowledge in times of environmental and social upheavals. In this exhibition, we share some of these stories with you.

Find the labels for all of the baskets in the exhibition here.

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