Blockbuster Maya Exhibit Opens in Denver

Denver Museum of Nature & Science hosts stunning Maya show.

LogoChichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is acknowledged as the northernmost Maya site, though I’ll make a case for Denver — through August 24 anyway. That’s the duration of “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” that just opened at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This combination of archeology, art and anthropology comprises the largest exhibit of Maya art, building and culture ever in the US.

Don’t miss this impressive exhibit, which features replicas of massive structures, plus such immersive environments as re-creations of an underworld cave, the starry night sky and a vibrantly colored mural room, and priceless artifacts that tell the story of this mighty Mesoamerican civilization, its belief system, mysticism and how the Maya people lived. The adjacent Gates Planetarium is showing “Tales from the Maya Skies.”

Stone constructions like these massive carved columns are replicas, because the originals would be impossible to move.
Stone constructions like these massive carved columns are replicas, because the originals would be impossible to move.
Display cases show Maya artifacts and explain them in both English and Spanish.
Display cases show Maya artifacts and explain them in both English and Spanish.
Interactivity rules. This kiosk enables visitors to select a Maya name and take home a print-out of the glyph, the Maya word in phonetics and the translation.
Interactivity rules. This kiosk enables visitors to select a Maya name and take home a print-out of the glyph, the Maya word in phonetics and the translation.
The display is a simplified version of the puzzles that archeologists unravel.
The display is a simplified version of the puzzles that archeologists solve to unravel mysteries of earlier cultures.

This enormous 20,000-square-foot exhibition bridges the original museum and the Anschutz Gallery, part of the new Morgridge Family Exploration Center, a the brand new $70 million addition to this venerable museum. I have to agree with the Denver Post’s John Wenzel, who praised the new section’s public and research/storage spaces but has problems with the huge, uninviting exterior walls that visually cut the interior off from City Park. When I saw it under construction, it reminded me of a dam face, and finished, it doesn’t look much more welcoming. Click here for the Post piece. Fortunately,  the museum’s other sides are more open. Function over form here.

Maya’s lead institution was the Science Museum of Minnesota, where it premiered, and after this dazzling display leaves Denver late this summer, it will go to Boston’s Museum of Science (October 12, 2014  to May 3, 2015) and then the San Diego Natural History Museum (June 12, 2015 to January 3, 2016).

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