Days of the dead exhibit opens at anthropology museum

Wake Forest University’s Museum of Anthropology began its celebration of “Dias de los Muertos” (“Days of the Dead”) on Oct. 3 with an exhibit of art and artifacts from the Republic of Mexico and the museum’s collection of Mexican “Days of the Dead” objects.

The “Days of the Dead” are a time of celebration when deceased family members and friends are remembered and honored.

“While observed in Mexico, Ecuador and Peru, most of what we know about the festivities and ritual is from Mexico,” said Mary Jane Berman, director of the museum. “Many people of Mexican descent celebrate the holiday here in the United States.”

Although the celebrations are observed formally on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 (All Saint’s Day), and Nov. 2 (All Soul’s Day), people begin preparing weeks and even months in advance. Family members weed, tidy and decorate cemeteries and graves; women make specially prepared sugared pastries and other foods; and craftsmen produce distinctive paper ornaments and papier- mache decorations. In each house where “Days of the Dead” celebrations are practiced, family members construct an altar, or “ofrenda,” in the main room of their homes. Photographs of the deceased, their favorite foods and personal possessions, and flowers, candles, and incense burners are placed on the altar, which is also bedecked with flowers, fruits, and paper ornaments. The museum will feature an “ofrenda” in its exhibit.

On Oct. 16, Jeanne Simonelli, professor and chair of Wake Forest’s anthropology department, will present a slide lecture titled, “Unbroken Circle: Death, Life, and other Possibilities,” at 7:30 p.m. in the museum classroom. In her presentation, Simonelli will link contemporary “Days of the Dead” observances to pre-Hispanic beliefs and practice. To make a reservation for the talk, call the museum at 758-5282.

“Celebrating Dias de los Muertos” will continue through Nov. 17. Admission is free and open to the public.

The exhibit is being held in conjunction with the SciWorks exhibit, “Mexico: Its Science and Ancient Civilization,” that runs from Oct. 14 – Nov. 18.

For more information, call the museum at 758-5282 or e-mail the museum at

Categories: Arts & Culture, Events