Throughout the ages, mankind has been developing a vast variety of cultural patterns, which resulted in such phenomenon of the modern world as cultural diversity. In order to efficiently communicate in modern days characterized by intensive processes of globalization and cross-cultural bonds, it is of vital importance to study and perceive the messages multiple cultures of the past left to us. To provide access to the cultural treasures of the past, historical museums and heritage centers have been established, serving the noble objective of creating cultural bridges between the past and present generations. Among others, the Autry National Center of the American West stands out for its comprehensive coverage of the history of a most intriguing American territory. Proclaiming its mission as exploring “the experiences and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inform our shared future”, the Autry National Center is a perfect place to discover and explore a vast collection of artifacts arranged into a captivating excursion into various aspects of American West life.
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As the whole volume of the Museum reserve is quite impossible to comprehend in one day, the visit under discussion involved a journey through several of its showcase galleries storing multiple artifacts which related to the life of the Indians and the cowboys, as well as gold diggers, coming to the territory during the Gold Rush period. An informative audio guide provided additional insight into the background, purpose, and significance of the most typical objects used by the inhabitants of the American West, linking the practical significance of the objects to their historical role for society and culture. For example, a parfleche (which is an original French word designating an Indian container for storing and transporting different possessions) bears a significance of its own, as — created by women of the tribe — it represents geometric designs, which together with being individual still obey strict rules and deliver a symbolic message to the initiates. No less symbolic appear the branding irons used for marking cattle: initially introduced as an anti-theft measure, they developed into individual designs acquiring the significance of sui generis coat of arms for American ranchers.
Though possessing some general knowledge of cowboys, Indians, and gold diggers before the excursion, I was still struck by the detailed information the Museum provided about literally every object used by the people who used to inhabit the territories of the West. My perceptions of them as old-fashioned were discredited, as many of their notions and ideas appear to be up-to-date — for instance, the working models of different farming devices used as sale samples by tradesmen of the nineteenth century. The idea of sampling goods for the purpose of their promotion at the market is still working!
The overall impression produced by the exhibition has been that of amazement at the diversity of cultures that coexisted at the same time on the territory of the American West. The emphasis the Indians placed on the symbolism of every practical appliance they used, the intricate techniques used by cowboys to manage the herds, the ingenious technical devices invented by gold diggers to optimize and refine their search for gold — all of those suggest a different world image for each of those cultures and offer the challenge of researching it for the purpose of enriching our understanding of the past.
On the whole, my perceptions of the American West have been greatly changed, as after the visit I started to view that territory as an inexhaustible resource of intriguing information about our past. Therefore, I would recommend everyone to engage in an excursion to the Museum, and I would gladly repeat the visit myself.
Autry National Center of the American West. (2009). Web.
- the importance of studying cultural diversity
- the Autry National Centre of the American West being a perfect location to get acquainted with culture of the past
Body paragraph I
- a visit to the galleries accompanied by an audio guide
- practical objects given a symbolic significance
Body paragraph II
- updating and changing perceptions of the American West
Body paragraph III
- cultural diversity suggests a challenge of exciting research
- the American West as an intriguing territory for everyone’s exploration