Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology

Current Exhibitions

Unbroken Traditions Poster

Unbroken Traditions

The first viewing of Unbroken Traditions is during the Exhibition Reception on Sept. 18th from 5:30 to 7 p.m.. 

“When you weave a design into a basket, you put the spirit of what you are weaving right into the basket” – Lilly Baker, Mountain Maidu Basketweaver, 1911-2006

New Exhibition Features Baskets from Four Generations of Mountain Maidu Weavers of the Meadows-Baker Family

The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology will hold a grand opening reception for the exhibition, Unbroken Traditions: Basketweavers of the Meadows-Baker Family of Northern California, on Wednesday, September 18th from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  Special guest speakers begin at 6:00 p.m. The exhibition represents the culmination of one year of research and collaboration between Mountain Maidu weavers, other tribal experts, museums studies students, faculty and curators.

The Meadows-Baker family consists of four generations of Mountain Maidu basketweavers who continued the tradition of basketry by sharing their talents. The exhibit shows only a glimpse into the lives of the Meadows-Baker family, but their impact on the cultural and artistic Maidu traditions is monumental.

Visitors will be able to explore the world of basketry and learn about the techniques and materials used to create these practical and ceremonial works of art. The displays feature the many uses for baskets such as storage, winnowing, cooking, fishing, acorn processing, and carrying infants.

The exhibition title, Unbroken Tradition, seeks to remind the public of the long unbroken lineage of people who have emerged from repeated attempts to eradicate their culture with their deeply-rooted heritage and traditions intact. 

Weavers and the landscape live and work in harmony.   The exhibit exposes visitors to the importance of this vital and important reciprocal relationship between the two. Traditional Ecological Knowledge in this context teaches a weaver to learn the proper way to gather weaving materials from the landscape before being allowed to make a basket. The knowledge of the environment, plant lifecycles, and their unique characteristics was passed down through the maternal lineages of the Meadows-Baker family in this way.

As museums across the nation begin to recognize the injustices of the past against Native American groups and as Chico State publically recognizes the land on which it sits as having been the original land of the Mechoopda Tribe, the museum has worked in partnership with the campus Tribal Liaison, Rachel McBride-Praetorius and local consultants to lift up the voices and experiences of Indigenous California Peoples.  The basket, in fact, is the perfect symbol of the resilience of a people who survived and now thrive, even when political forces and colonial attitudes tried to eliminate these century’s old ways of life and art forms. We invite you to celebrate the natural beauty and artistry of Maidu basketweavers.  These baskets represent a deep and complex understanding and interdependent relationship with the environment as well as remarkable skill and artistry unsurpassed by any other artistic tradition.

Remarkable Lives Post with Large Bird Eye on Cover

Remarkable Lives: The Intertwined Worlds of Birds and Humans

Bird songs and behaviors have resonated with peoples of every time and place. Their natural beauty inspire great art, dance, ritual and fashion on every continent. Local photographers capture these living dinosaurs still among us and a robotic recreation of the late Jurassic Archaeopteryx gives new meaning to the phrase early bird.



Additionally, the exhibition reveals both the damage to global ecosystems and the consequences for birds worldwide. The innovations of citizen science, agricultural flyways and backyard habitats mitigate these influences and create lush, fun, mini ecosystems that really support local and regional bird life. Visitors will consider the impact humans are having on the lives of birds, and how the metaphor of the proverbial canary in the coal mine is playing out on the world stage.

The museum is delighted to be partnering with the Altacal Audubon Society and Snow Goose Festival. In its 20th year, the Snow Goose Festival strives to increase public awareness and conservation of wildlife and habitats of the Northern Sacramento Valley.

The museum will add an extra open day on Sunday, January 27th from 11-3 to accommodate the Snow Goose Festival, which runs January 23-27. Birds and Birders, alike, flock to Chico, which is ideally situated near the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory hub for many bird species during the winter.

Photo Gallery - Remarkable Lives

Explore the sights the Remarkable Lives exhibit.