This weekend, I visited the Milwaukee Public Museum for a thorough Father's Day exploration of the museum with my kids. We were everywhere, from the rainforest to the Streets of Old Milwaukee to the igloo on the third floor and the North American village on the second floor.
It was in a display in the village -- where we realized someone could probably secretly live for a while without being noticed -- that I saw the sign above.
It reads, "At the request of the Hopi tribe of Arizona the material in this exhibit case has been removed. Please return to see a new exhibit in this space in the spring of 2014."
I asked Carrie Trousil Becker, communications director at the museum, what it meant.
"These masks were removed from exhibit at the request of the Hopi tribe," said the museum's anthropology curator, Dawn Scher Thomae.
"Just to clarify, they did not ask for a return of the material, as some people have assumed. These particular masks are now considered sacred and should not be 'awake' 24 hours a day but should be resting if not in use -- as in ceremonies. They are now comfortably resting in our storage.
"A Navajo gentleman was in the Milwaukee Public Museum late last summer and saw the masks. The Navajo are neighbors of the Hopi so he was familiar with these masks and he contacted the tribe, who contracted us to politely ask to remove them. I have developed an exhibit on (anthropologist) Samuel Barrett to go into that case."
I appreciate MPM for honoring their request!
So, what's the plan with the masks? It would seem to be a waste to have them sitting in storage for any great length of time. Wonder if they will be brought out for display during open hours and placed back in storage during closing hours... or could patrons request to view the masks? Or maybe return them to the Hopi's so they can be reunited and serve their true purpose during ceremonies.
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