Peruvian gold glitters at U of C

In a room all to itself, a massive golden mask with Colombian emerald eyes sits in the Nickle Arts Museum as an example of the expertise the Sicán people had for metalwork. For the next several months, the University of Calgary’s museum will be sharing dozens of such beautiful artifacts with Calgarians in its Ancient Peru Unearthed exhibit.

Colleen Sharpe, assistant curator and coordinator of Ancient Peru Unearthed, hand-picked many of the objects displayed in the exhibit during several of her visits to the Sicán National Museum in Peru. Most of the artifacts revealed were discovered in the East Tomb of the La Leche river valley just north of Lambayeque, Peru.

The museum’s collection is usually composed largely of western contemporary art, so producing a show of this calibre was a challenge, said Sharpe.

“We basically built the show from scratch,” she said, noting the exhibit has been in the works for approximately six years. It includes sections on trading, looting, technology and symbols.

A special area was also devoted to educational resources, marking a new direction for the museum. Alberta third grade classes are now required to study Peru, and consequently a room was constructed with miniature archaeological digs and other activities for visiting students. A 12-minute video was also produced by the museum for those interested.

“I don’t think the rest of Canada looks at Calgary as a place that can do big things,” said Sharpe. “This is a big budget kind of thing.”

The budget also led to an increase in ticket prices, noted Sharpe. Admission to the Nickle is usually free for U of C students, yet the museum was unable to secure a lead sponsor until late in the summer. As a result, the museum had to front the costs of shipping all the artifacts from Peru, as well as the construction costs for the new display cases. After the exhibit ends, tickets will return to their regular price.

The Nickle Arts Museum, located north of MacEwan Student Centre, opened in 1979 with a donation by Samuel C. Nickle. Since then, it has displayed contemporary art and an extensive coin collection to students and the larger Calgary community. It collaborates with other faculties and departments at the U of C to enhance learning for students in related areas of study.

Ancient Peru Unearthed runs until Jan.14. Tickets are $14 for adults; $9 for seniors, children, and students; $35 for families and free for children under six. The Nickle Arts Museum is open Sat. to Wed. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Thur. and

Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

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