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Hutchings Museum unveils technology for cultural preservation

By Ashtyn Asay - | Nov 20, 2021

Ashtyn Asay

This Native American woven basket is one of the artifacts available for 3D examination.

The Hutchings Museum-Institute held a presentation on Friday highlighting its new technologies for Native American culture and language preservation.

The museum will now use lidar, photo restoration, document recovery, virtual reality, 3D modeling and more — all in an effort to not only help preserve Native American culture and language, but to make it more accessible.

With this new technology, people from all over the world will be able to discover the Hutchings Museum and Institute’s Native American Exhibit at any time online. Visitors to the museum’s website can explore the Native American Exhibit in 3D, and examine artifacts through 3D modeling.

According to Daniela Larsen, the executive director of the Hutchings Museum-Institute, they decided to make changes to the museum’s Native American Exhibit came after she started to feel the museum only had one side of the story.

“We have a lot of third- and fourth-grade tours that come into the museum, and as we teach the Native American room and as we listened to that presentation over and over again, it’s really obvious, even to us, that we’re telling one side of the story,” Larsen said. “So reaching out and trying to get that involvement to be able to tell all sides of the story just became a work in progress.”

When the museum closed due to COVID-19, Larsen felt it was the perfect time for the museum to not only take on a big project, but to bring one of their exhibits online as well.

A symposium followed the unveiling of the new technology, beginning with a hoop dance performed by Patrick Willie, a world-champion hoop dancer and member of the Navajo Nation. According to Willie, the hoop dance he performed represented the eagle, and the progressive increase in the number of hoops he used represented an individual’s progression through life.

Larry Cesspooch, a Vietnam veteran and member of the Ute tribe, spoke on the importance of cultural preservation and digitization. Cesspooch has been working with the Hutchings Museum-Institute to help identify artifacts and petroglyphs.

“I’m very happy to be connected with Daniela and the group,” Cesspooch said. “I’m just really glad to be doing all of this with them, it’s a learning experience.”

The unveiling took place at Megaplex Theatres at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, and included a screening of the documentary “What Was Ours.”

The 2016 documentary tells the story of an Eastern Shoshone elder and two young members of the Northern Arapaho tribe living on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The three find their purpose as they attempt to reclaim artifacts that have been taken from their tribes and stored or displayed in museums. The film puts into perspective the difficulties Native Americans face while trying to preserve their culture, and recover elements of it that may have been lost.

To view “What Was Ours,” and explore the new technologies for cultural preservation, visit the Hutchings Museum-Institute website.

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