While the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures is known for its wide array of ethnic groups represented on its exhibit floor, several narrative lines and commonalities flow through the various exhibits. Certain life experiences are universal, and their commonality draws people together.
This was the concept the museum staff had in mind when selecting their next traveling exhibit, “Fertility, Blessings and Protection: Cultures of Baby Carriers,” on display Oct. 12 through June 21.
“Baby carriers from American Indians or Taiwanese Indigenous, tell the universal story of mother’s love and devotion for her baby,” said Director General Chen of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston.
Infancy and childhood themes make their appearances across the institute’s exhibit floor, and the Lipan Apache exhibit includes an example of a baby carrier common to the Plains Indian tribe. It’s a commonality Vance Blackfox, a member of the Cherokee Nation and resident theologian for the Faith-Based Initiative for the City of San Antonio, recognized, and he will honor this connection by leading the blessing at the Oct. 11 opening reception.
“We’re looking at common ground,” said ITC Executive Director Angelica Docog. “Parenting, child-rearing, protection and the unconditional love between parent and child – these are universal themes in every culture. This is a foundational component of humanity.”
She explained, at a glance, the exhibit appears rather niche, but the institute’s perspective goes beyond the objects. The everyday items presented throughout the museum are important because they have been imbued with life experience.
“Culture is so much more than stuff or observable items,” Docog said. “An antique has value and a fossil can tell us about times long ago, but objects we use in everyday life reveal who we are. Ultimately, that’s what the institute is here to do.”
Fertility, Blessings and Protection begins with data from prehistoric and archaeological research in Taiwan relating to parenting and childcare. The exhibit provides an overview of the culture of baby carriers and child rearing practices of Minnan, Hakka and Austronesian-speaking peoples in Taiwan.
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 Adult (18-64); $9 Senior (65+), College Student, Minor (6-17) (children 0-5 free); UTSA and Alamo Colleges with identification Free; $7 Group rate, per person (10 or more). For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit texancultures.utsa.edu.