Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

5-2009

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis

Degree Title

Master of Applied Historical Research

Department

History

Major Advisor

Sandra Schackel

Abstract

The Basque Museum & Cultural Center’s newest corridor exhibit, Traditions in Transition: Basques in America, is an interpretive exhibit based primarily on material culture artifacts, photographs and literature. The exhibit provides a physical and thematic transition between the museum’s entryway exhibits and the main gallery exhibit. Traditions in Transition uses six corridor cases to exhibit six topics under an overarching theme of Basque migration and expression of their ethnicity through various cultural artifacts, practices, and traditions. This pattern is common largely among European immigrant groups’ later generations. The exhibit addresses how the Basque immigrants adapted these cultural practices to their new environment as a response to their migration from their home country to diaspora communities in the American West.

The exhibit connects these topics to contemporary issues such as environmental conservation and trans-national migration in the modern world. The six topics include: cultural beliefs; the Basques and their impacts on the environment; performance arts; traditional cuisine; the sporting life; and the evolution of Basque gathering centers. The interpretive narrative of this exhibit focuses on the Basque immigrant community in the American West and their ongoing connection to the Basque Country through traditional Basque folk culture. Basque-Americans often use these cultural practices and artifacts to symbolically express their ethnicity. The exhibit emphasizes the fact that the Basque-American culture in the American West was the result of a regional migration because most emigrants came primarily from the rural area of the Basque Country. The current exhibit displays traditional cultural objects. The majority of these displays, however, has remained unchanged since 1993 and do not involve enough interpretation to effectively educate museum visitors. Traditions in Transition provides interpretive themes to engage and educate the public in conjunction with BMCC’s mission to promote Basque history and culture.

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