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Museum of Culture and Environment

College of the Sciences

Past Exhibits

As of March 2020, this page is no longer being updated


Peruvian Textile Traditions: A Living Heritage 

Enemies of the State: Soviet Punk 1979 – 1991

Diary of a Dust Mite (Dean Hall Lobby)

Being the First: LatinX Pioneers in Public Service (Window on Central)

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights

January 31 - March 16, 2019

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, this exhibition features compelling and persuasive images and objects from Civil Rights history that changed how Americans viewed race, racism, and the struggle for equality. 

For All the World to See has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the NEH. It has been adapted and is being toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA).


The Living Room

April 5, 2018 - December 1, 2018

What can the living room--a supposedly mundane space--tell us about the human condition? On April 5th, the MCE celebrates The Living Room, a new exhibition featuring photographs (by local artist, Rob Fraser) of living rooms within our community. Please join the MCE staff, students, and faculty as we open the exhibit with a celebration, including live music and refreshments!


Pulling Back the Curtain: Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Through March 10, 2018

Pulling Back the Curtain is an interactive exhibit that creatively explores the mysterious rituals that take place behind-the-scenes at museums. Why can’t you touch the artifacts in museum exhibits? And why do museums hide most of the objects they own?

Re-writing the Streets: The International Language of Stickers

Paper Bullets: 100 Years of Political Stickers

Through March 10, 2018

Street art stickers have emerged as a provocative vehicle for self-expression and an effective way to engage passersby.  Stickers may be used to “tag” a space and make it temporarily one’s own, to sell products or services, to publicize social media sites, or to offer social commentary and critique. Two new exhibitions at the Museum of Culture & Environment feature street art stickers from around the world.

Rewriting the Streets shows the broad range of street stickers from around the world, while Paper Bullets addresses the history of political stickers, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Together these exhibitions include over 1600 original, unused stickers, grouped by artist, theme, date, and geographic location.  These stickers are among the finest examples from two collectors, Catherine Tedford in the United States and Oliver Baudach in Germany, and this is the first time these exhibitions have appeared in the Pacific Northwest.

Funded by the CWU Foundation Len Thayer Grants Program.


The Wenas Creek Mammoth

March 2010-August 2017

Thousands of years ago, a mProfessor Pat Lubinski Stands next to a life sized mammoth imageammoth was buried in the hillside near the Wenas Creek in Selah, WA. In 2005, its remains were discovered and a team from Central Washington University, headed by Pat Lubinski, began the careful process of removing the bones from the hillside. The Wenas Creek Mammoth exhibit in the MCE lobby and Window On Central display exhibit explores what the team found and what they have found out about the mammoth. The exhibit features real mammoth bones in the display case.


Stellar: The Formation of Stars

For all of recorded history, people have told stories about the stars. They looked up and saw the shapes of animals, gods, and legends. The night sky and those tiny specks of light capture the human imagination.

As science has evolved, we’ve begun to tell new stories. Stories about where the stars are, about how stars are born, live, and die. We ask questions and want to tell new stories. We add images to the stories we tell.

In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope gave us the ability to see more and farther than we ever had before. New telescopes, including others in space, have given us the ability to peer deep into space and time, to see more than the human eye can see, and to further untangle the mystery of star formation. But even as we learn more, more questions arise.
How are astronomers able to peer through dense molecular clouds—to “see” beyond the regular optical spectrum and create awe-inspiring images? What do we know about how stars are created and how they die? And what mysteries remain as astronomers and astrophysicists probe these distant zones of creation and destruction?

January-June 2017

Click here to read full exhibition text

Welcome to Mars

Humanity may be able to establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years. What would it take to create and maintain a long term habit for people on the red planet?

January 2017-December 2017


The Things We Carry   (A community-curated exhibition)

January 2017-June 2017

Objects hold memories. Physical things carry traces of people we have loved, times of joy and terror, and places we may have heard of, but never visited. They connect us to distant homelands and important moments in personal and family memory. Through our objects, we carry with us complex emotions and histories. Sometimes, in contemplating these material things, we discover new insights about where we have come from and whom we might become.

All the items in this exhibit have been loaned by community members who are sharing their stories and memories with us. Some are fun and funny. Others are sad and poignant. All are united by common threads of remembrance, reflection, and resilience.


Tapestries of Hope: The Arpillera Movement in Chile.
Chilean arpilleras, small tapestries made from leftover cloth, tell the stories of human rights abuses at the hands of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile.  This art form emerged out of the widespread practice of “disappearing” human rights activists during the period of military rule, 1973 – 1990. Mothers and other loved ones of the missing created these small works, which expressed the pain of loss, as well as hope for a democratic and peaceful future. This exhibition emerges from the collection of Marjorie Agosin, a prominent Chilean poet and human rights activist. (September 21-December 10, 2016)

Liberty Denied: Immigration, Detention, Deportation. Recent art work explores the challenges experienced by immigrants, with a focus on the Pacific Northwest. (September 21-December 10, 2016)

Click here full exhibition description.

Read curator Susan Noyes Platt's post on the exhibition

(Part of the CWU year long social justice dialogue on immigration and migration)

October 10-14. "Faces of Shady Acres," Photographs by Rob Fraser. SURC 137a/b

Click here for full exhibition description


Continuing through October 2016

Pluto and New Horizons.

Data from the New Horizons spacecraft has revolutionized our understanding of Pluto. Join the debate about what makes a planet a "planet" and how our knowledge about the Kuiper belt is changing. (Consultant: Dr. Bruce Palmquist)

Touring the Solar System.

A new campus wide model of the solar system. Our "sun" is the size of a baseball, hanging in the Museum's lobby. Pluto is located in the Art Department in Randall Hall! The planets and the asteroid belt are in between, in various campus buildings. (Co-curated by Museum Studies students Liz Seelye '16 and Drew Johnson '16, advised by Professors. Bruce Palmquist and Mark Auslander.)



Miracles of Mexican Folk Art: Retablos and Ex Votos

April 7-June 11, 2016

Miracles of Mexican Folk Art: Retablos and Ex-votos celebrates Mexico’s vibrant artistic and religious patrimony. This exhibition features 36 religious votive paintings, “retablos” and “ex votos” made during the late colonial and independence eras in Mexico, from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. 


Winter 2016

Then and Now: The  Changing Arctic Landscape

This exhibition pairs decades-old, large-format photos of Alaska’s Arctic with contemporary views from the same vantage points, sets changes in the northern landscape into stark relief. The exhibition also provides context about the arctic ecosystem and celebrates pioneering geologists working in Alaska. This touring exhibition from Alaska's The Museum of the North includes video testimony by Native elders, and is supplemented by cultural artifacts from the collection of the CWU Museum of Culture and Environment.  Through March 11.

    Reflection on mask symbolism (Marna Carroll)



Fall 2015

The Penitent: Images from Eastern State Penitentiary.

Artist Chris Heard presents 15 haunting images from Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the birthplace of the modern American prison system. This exhibition is part of the cross-campus year of dialogue, "Mass Incarceration and Racial Violence: Black and Brown Lives Do Matter."  (In October, see more of Chris Heard's work in "Notes from Suburbia" in the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery.)

Pluto and New Horizons.

Data from the New Horizons spacecraft has revolutionized our understanding of Pluto. Join the debate about what makes a planet a "planet" and how our knowledge about the Kuiper belt is changing. (Consultant: Dr. Bruce Palmquist)

Touring the Solar System.

A new campus wide model of the solar system. Our "sun" is the size of a baseball, hanging in the Museum's lobby. Pluto is located in the Art Department in Randall Hall! The planets and the asteroid belt are in between, in various campus buildings. (Co-curated by Museum Studies students Liz Seelye '16 and Drew Johnson '16, advised by Professors. Bruce Palmquist and Mark Auslander.)

Elwha: A River Reborn.

A new exhibit from the Burke Museum, takes you to the Northwest’s legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind a remarkable local story—and the largest dam removal project ever undertaken.
[The Elwha] Restoration project is a testament to what can happen when diverse groups find a way to work together and achieve shared goals of restoration for a river, a people, an ecosystem, and a national park.
—Jan Jarvis, National Park Service Director.

Based on a Mountaineers book of the same name by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, Elwha: A River Reborn takes visitors on a journey to the Northwest’s legendary Elwha River Valley to discover the people, places, and history behind a remarkable story—and the largest dam removal project ever undertaken. Through first-person accounts, stunning photographs, and informative text printed on free-standing banners, visitors follow the Elwha’s journey from abundant wilderness to economic engine—to an unprecedented experiment in restoration and renewal that has captured global attention.

For centuries, the Elwha River has been more than a river. It has been the lifeline for the people, the animals, and the environment of the Elwha River Valley. The Elwha has kept this crucial ecosystem thriving, been a source of jobs and revenue for the local economy, and is at the heart of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s culture.

For the last 100 years, the Elwha River has been blocked by two dams—the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. Built to provide hydroelectric power to the early settlement town of Port Angeles, the dams brought jobs and resources to a developing community. However, the dams were built violating state laws; there were no fish ladders or way for the salmon to pass through, cutting off the lifeline to a wide variety of animals, and severely impacting the livelihood and traditions of the Klallam people.
How did the Elwha dams go from being celebrated for bringing “peace, power and civilization” to the Valley, to being slated for demolition by an Act of Congress? How did the Pacific Northwest, a region synonymous with hydropower, become a dam-busting pioneer? Visitors discover all of this and more at Elwha: A River Reborn.

Elwha was developed by the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in collaboration with The Seattle Times, Mountaineers Books, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.  National touring sponsor: The Snoqualmie Tribe.





INDING CULTURE: LIVING LANDSCAPES AND MATERIAL LIFE IN NORTHERN LUZON, PHILIPPINES    An exhibition co-organized by Ellen Schattschneider and Lynn Bethke, featuring indigenous textiles and basketry from the Cordillera region of northern Luzon, Opening April 9.

Binding Cultures celebrates the artistic brilliance and technological creativity of the peoples of the Philippines’ Cordillera region in Northern Luzon..  The objects in this exhibition integrate practical functions and aesthetic power, illustrating the social and environmental adaptability of their creators in a rapidly changing world.

FACTS ON COMPOSTING.   This traveling exhibition from the Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders explores the benefits of large-scale composting as well as how citizens can help commercial composting facilities in Washington State be good neighbors, with respect to odor and environmental health concerns. On view from April 1-30. Supported by funds from a Public Participation Grant through the Washington State Department of Ecology.





"All our stories are so different, but we're all the same:" Homelessness and Addiction in our Community

An exploration of poverty, addiction and recovery in Kittitas County, including community  quotes and art created by community members. Installation on Dean Lobby Wall. Co-curated by CWU museum studies interns, Sarah Bair, Barbara Hammesberg, and Elizabeth Seelye,, with Mark Auslander.   Opening January 14.
Righteous Dopefiend: Homelessness, Addiction and Poverty in Urban America

January 2015

In Righteous Dopefiend: Homelessness, Addiction and Poverty in Urban America, anthropologist Philippe Bourgois and photographer-ethnographer Jeff Schonberg document the daily lives of homeless drug users, drawing upon more than a decade of fieldwork they conducted among a community of heroin injectors and crack smokers who survive on the streets of San Francisco’s former industrial neighborhoods. Numerous black and white photographs are interwoven with edited transcriptions of tape recorded conversations, fieldwork notes, and critical analysis to explore the intimate experience of homelessness and addiction. Revealing the social survival mechanisms and perspectives of this marginalized “community of addicted bodies,” the exhibition also sheds light on the often unintended consequences of public policies that can exacerbate the suffering faced by treet-based drug users in America.

A traveling exhibit from the Penn Museum.




How did the Cougar Cross the Road? Restoring wildlife passages at Snoqualmie Pass

April 17 - December 6, 2014

This exhibit  tells the story of wildlife connectivity corridors linking animal populations formerly divided by Interstate 90. Follow in the footsteps of native fauna over a recreated wildlife overpass and discover how the cougar crosses the road, and how humans are helping.


Migration Now

September 24 - December 6, 2014

A selection of handmade prints addressing migrant issues from Justseeds & CultureStrike.

Migration is a phenomenon, not a problem, something that simply is. The right to migrate and to move freely is our human right. When societies restrict or choke off the movements of their citizens, they end up doing the work of a dam- they generate power and control floods, but in doing so they destroy life and wreck the surrounding space.

We want to re-imagine migration as an inevitability, as a social practice that is not to be prevented but to be related to, like weather. All migration starts with social relationships. When people move, they are going either towards their families or communities, or more often, away from them. They move to help their relatives, or support them by leaving. People migrate because their homes stifle them, because those homes become burdens they need to shed in order to have full lives. They move in search of opportunity, or to escape their past, or to simply survive. They move because of lies they are told and that they come to believe, and they move to fulfil the most beautiful and fragile of dreams. Migration is fundamentally about our right to move freely across planet Earth, in search of our fullest and best


Wolves in Washington State

January 30 - June 14, 2014

Wolves, once hunted to near extinction, are making a comeback in Washington State.  Understanding how to coexist with wolves is crucial to their survival.  A complex story, Wolves in Washington State examines wolf ecology and management issues as well as highlights the critical role wolves play in promoting a healthy ecosystem.

Incorporating thought-provoking text, map, and wildlife photos onto free-standing banners, the exhibit presents visitors with a balanced approach to the story of wolves in Washington State.  The exhibit also illuminates the important cultural significance of the wolf in Pacific Northwest Native American culture.

The exhibit also includes a touchable wolf skull cast and comparative species tracks, a "frequently asked questions" brochure, and a magnetic "current events" message board with brochure box.

Wolves in Washington State was organized by the Burke Museum, University of Washington with help from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Where there's Smoke... Living with Fire

October 2, 2013 - March 22, 2014

Where there's Smoke explores the impact that fire has on our lives and our landscapes.  Featuring current research on ancient fires, stunning photographs of the Taylor Bridge Fire, and artifacts from the human history of fire, this exhibit touches on many aspects of how humans and the environment live with fire.


Voices of the River: Life along the Yakima

January 9, 2013 - June 11, 2013

Voices of the River celebrates the diverse stories and experiences inspired by the Yakima River of south-central Washington state, giving voice to the women and men whose lives have been intertwined with the river and introducing visitors to the web of biodiversity in this dynamic, changing ecosystem.

fashion STATEMENT: Native Artists Against Pebble Mine - January 9 to March 16, 2013


Archeologists Dig Central: Excavating the Campus

October 13, 2012 - December 1, 2012

History exists beneath our feet, waiting to be dug up. Archaeologists Dig Central explores the role of archaeology on the Central Washington University campus, and brings to light some rarely seen items left behind over thousand of years. Co-curated by students Erin Chenvert and Karina Harig, with help from Shane Scott of the Central Washington Anthropological Survey.


Particles on the Wall

September 19, 2012 - December 1, 2012

Particles on the Wall (POTW) is an interdisciplinary group exhibit exploring elements of science and the nuclear age, Hanford history, their thread through our lives and their bearing on the Columbia River and natural world. The goal of the exhibit is to unite the arts and sciences to forge a more healthy and peaceful world, while exploring Hanford history and the nuclear age. Exhibit pieces illuminate key events regarding the nuclear history and role of nuclear technology in Washington State, current concerns with radioactive contamination, and the quest for peace. Given the magnitude of the topics, the tone of the exhibit is one of quiet commentary yet restraint, to best impart both the need for concern and an element of hope in the face of issues on war, peace, and the nuclear age that rest in our own back yards.


No Place Untouched by War: The Second World War and Central Washington College of Education
May-October, 2012, Barge Hall

No Place Untouched by War explores the experiences of the cadets of the 314th Army Air Corps detachment and their time at CWCE, from 1943 until 1944. Using photographs, newsletters, and personal accounts, this exhibit provides a rare glimpse into the lives of young people—both cadets and college students—during WWII. This exhibit was curated by Museum Studies senior Kevin Sodano, with assistance from senior Michael Chapman


Through the Rabbit Hole: A Journey into Imaginary Worlds – May 3 to June 15, 2012

The Mapmaker’s Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau – March 15 to June 15, 2012

Cruisin’ the Washington Fossil Freeway with Artist Ray Troll and Paleontologist Kirk Johnson – February 2 to April 15, 2012

In My Shoes: Stories about Life, Told from the Bottom Up – January 28 to June 15, 2012

Journey Stories – January 28 to March 11, 2012

Storytelling through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards – September 29, 2011 to January 21, 2012

Sacred Spaces – February 3 to June 11, 2011

The Secret Life of Shells – October 7, 2010 to June 11, 2011

Bicycle Eclectic – May 5 to June 19, 2010

Guns, Furs, & Steel: Alexander Ross at the Crossroads – March 31, 2010 to January 15, 2011

The Wenas Creek Mammoth – March 25, 2010 to Ongoing

Beyond Black and White: The Stories Behind Our Masks – February 19, 2010 to December 11, 2010

Collections Spotlight Mini-Exhibit: Ceramics - February 19, 2010 to March 20, 2010

River of Memory: The Everlasting Columbia – September 26 to December 17, 2009


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