Introducing Maya from the Margins, a Museums Connect Project

dsc_0148Maya from the Margins, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s prestigious Museums Connect program, fosters cultural understanding among Maya youth through archival-based research at the Southern Historical Collection in the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill and the State Archives of Yucatán (AGEY). Participants include high school students of Maya descent from Morganton, NC and Maya students of similar ages from Tahcabo, Yucatán, Mexico.

Through a series of workshops led by university faculty, students will explore topics addressing Maya identity, including literature, language, and migration. Working with archival specialists, they will then delve into these issues from a historical perspective.  The Morganton students will work with collections pertaining to prehispanic Maya cultures donated by archaeologist George Stuart to the Southern Historical Collection, including facsimiles of Maya screenfold books, or codices.  Tahcabo students will have the opportunity to examine rare historical documents found in AGEY, including original letters from Maya leaders involved in Yucatán’s “Caste War.”  The project, designed to build bridges across political borders, encourages the student participants to explore questions relevant to their own lives, as well as their families and their ancestors.

Using a variety of social media and videoconferences, the students will forge connections and share their thoughts and discoveries with each other.  As the capstone event, students from Morganton will travel to Yucatán to visit cultural sites and present their findings in an exhibit to be held at various locations, including AGEY.  Likewise, the Yucatec students will travel to North Carolina to present their own exhibit and participate in cultural events in the Chapel Hill and Morganton areas.

Maya from the Margins builds on UNC program InHerit’s ongoing work with the community of Tahcabo and a newly formed relationship with Patton High School’s teachers, administrators, students, and their parents in Morganton, NC.  We are excited to be engaging in new partnerships and to helping Maya youth from Yucatán and NC build connections between their communities! We are also delighted to be collaborating with UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Anthropology; Bryan Giemza, Director of the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-CH; Iván Batún Alpuche, formerly Director of the State Archives of Yucatán; and two undergraduate student mentors, Raina Enrique and Jacqueline López.

Maya from the Margins: Archives and Experiences of History, Identity, and Migration is a Museums ConnectSM project. Museums Connect is an initiative of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is administered by the American Alliance of Museums.