Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tall Tale Exhibition Opens!

I'm delighted that our exhibition at the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment, "Storytelling through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards," opens today (Thursday, October 6) at 4:00 p.m.   The opening will feature performance by Western storyteller and folksinger Hank Cramer, a simulated Western campfire, and (we hope) a few tall tales from some of our Deans!

The show,  traveling to us from the Michigan State University Museum, is a very entertaining celebration of weird and wacky postcards featuring fanciful and extravagant images, many of them emphasizing gargantuan local fruits and vegetables. We've supplemented the show with local Tall Tale postcards from Ellensburg, as well as some intriguing and enigmatic objects from our permanent collection, selected by our Collections manager Lynn Bethke  (Visitors can guess at what these objects are, and then lift up a text panel to check the actual identifications.) I am especially pleased that our undergraduate intern Sara Borer is creating several creative segments for the exhibition. She's developing an "Imaginarium," a series of fanciful dioramas, which invite visitors to compose their own captions or create their own Tall Tale postcards.  And she is also developing a special installation on the university mascot, Wellington P. Wildcat; the plan is to invite students and others to propose tall tales about Wellington. The topic is a fun one, especially on the eve of Homecoming, but also a serious matter for anthropological inquiry. The phenomenon of mascots raises important questions about the persistence of magical thinking in modern society: is a mascot a 'talismen', a continuation of the ancient belief that certain objects and animals bring good luck?  Animal mascots, worn as masks at sports events, also call attention to our long-term human fascination with masquerades and human-animal hybrids. One of the oldest human made artistic images is the so called 'unicorn' painting in the ancient cave of Chauvet, in what is now southern France. It seems to represent a human being transforming into a horned animal, and may, many scholars have speculated, evoke a shaman in the process of entering in a transformative trance.  Is Weillington heir to this ancient human spiritual tradition, in which the powers of animal and human are merged in order to achieve victory over the imponderable forces of the wider universe?

Please join us this quarter at the Museum as we explore these and other questions about exaggeration, creativity, and the human penchant for the fantastical!

CWU student reporter Ashton Cermak has written an insightful piece on the new exhibition in the student newspaper, The Observer, at:

And the exhibition opening, we are pleased to see, is listed in today's Daily Record, at:  -

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