KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A collaborative, new exhibition featuring altars, marigold flowers and more is coming to the McClung Museum that will celebrate a deeply rooted Mexican tradition of honoring the dead.
The McClung Museum announced its next special exhibition, “The Sprit of Día de los Muertos” (“El Espíritu del Día de los Muertos”) is opening Friday, Aug. 26. The exhibition runs until Dec. 10.
Día de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition celebrated each fall to remember loved ones who have passed. The celebration of death dates back to pre-Hispanic Indigenous civilizations whose rituals and traditions were later adopted by the Spanish/Roman-Catholic Church. What remained central was the honoring of loved ones who have died.
The Día de los Muertos traditions usually begin Oct. 31 for remembering loved ones who died in accidents; then continue to Nov. 1 for loved ones who died in childhood; then loved ones who died as adults are honored on Nov. 2. Storytelling and sharing anecdotes about lost loved ones is paramount on these days.
The observance of Día de los Muertos also includes the tradition of families cleaning and decorating their loved ones’ graves and covering them with marigold or “cempasúchil” flowers. Altars or “ofrendas” are also made upon which marigolds, candles, photos, and offerings of favorite food/beverages are placed. The ofrendas are central to observing the traditions.
Several members of the East Tennessee Latina/o/x community will be guiding the exhibition, according to the McClung Museum.
“The exhibition presents traditional and contemporary ofrendas, or altars, displaying the dedication and evolution of the cross-cultural celebration,” the museum’s webpage on the exhibit states. “One-of-a-kind installations created by Knoxville community participants and artworks by local artists will be on view. The related festive events, programming, and interactive installation will enhance the visitor experience. This exhibition is largely driven by the community advisory group composed of members on and off the UT campus.”
Hispanic Heritage Month is observed each year between Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, when the United States officially recognizes the contributions Hispanic and Latin Americans have made to society. Originally, the commemoration started in 1968 as a week-long observation but in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a 30-day celebration.
The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is located at 1327 Circle Park on the University of Tennessee campus.