History of the Museum of Arts and Cultures

The SLU Museum of Arts and Cultures was conceptualized in 1969 when anthropology was added to the curriculum in the college of Human Sciences. With anthropology, a museum was inevitable. In 1970, Dr. Florentino H. Hornedo, then the dean of the College of Human Sciences through the newly organized university-wide Department of Social Sciences initiated the initial and voluntary collection of artifacts from the basic social sciences classes in the college and then joined in by those of other colleges. The response exceeded expectations. Interest in the collection of artifacts gained momentum.

Donated items were temporarily deposited in a corner in the outer office of the dean of the College of Human Sciences at the Diego Silang Building. The following year the student council joined the campaign. The BIBAK, a federation of students from the Cordillera cultural communities, after realizing the wisdom of preserving their cultural heritage especially the artifacts that are fast disappearing, donated a big bulk of cultural artifacts.

Not only ethnographic materials but also historical documents and folk arts items were collected. Students in the social sciences were encouraged to do research papers, ethnographic reports, term papers and even theses on folk arts, folkways, beliefs and lifestyles of different cultural communities. The output of this research endeavors were also added to the museum collection.

The museum, then dubbed as College of Human Sciences Museum, has moved from one place to another. From the corridor of the Office of the Dean of the College of Human Sciences, it was transferred to the Burgos Center Conference Hall where it became a major attraction during the 1971 International Philippine Association of Travel Agencies Conference. In 1972, the museum was again pushed out from the Conference room to the corridors of the Burgos Center where it stayed temporarily, then to the Mount Mary Hall where it stayed for a while before it was returned to the Burgos Center. With the completion of the Msgr. Charles Vath Library building in 1973, the museum found its home where it remained for the past 26 years. It occupied one-half of a wing at the third floor of the Msgr. Charles Vath Library Building. Since then, it was renamed Museum of Arts and Cultures and the museum collections were organized and formally displayed for viewing to the public and to the university community. In June 1999 the museum was again transferred to the third floor of the newly constructed Msgr. William Brasseur Building along Gen. Luna Road where it was accessible for public viewing pending the preparation and renovation of the more spacious and strategic Second floor of the Msgr. Charles Vath Library Building that will soon be its final location.

Through the years the museum attracted donations of artifacts from various personalities like Dr. Alejandro Roces, Chairman, SLU Board of Trustees, late former governor Alfredo Lam-en of Mt. Province, Msgr. Odelo Etspueler of the Diocese of Abra, and Mayor Molina of Tayum Abra, among others. The museum continue to interest and amuse students and others visitors within or outside of the region. Some Cordillera families who share the common concern for the collection and preservation of the cultures made pledges and donations of artifacts to the museum. The Gaidan (Gold Ore stone Crusher) and other gold processing paraphernalia and the Okisan de Kape (Coffee Peeler) were donated by the Waldo family from Dalicno, Itogon, Benguet. The Tillar (Ilocos loom weaving) and the Dadapilan (Sugar Cane Presser) from the Espiritu and Villanueva families, respectively, from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. Another Tillar was donated by the family of Mrs. Maria Mercedes Liclican-Supsup from La Union. The Photo documents of burial practices of Bakun, Benguet, was given by the Tolito family while a set of pictorials of Cordillera ethnic dances was donated by Dr. Dennis Wandit from the Benguet State University. The Wostyn Family through Fr. Lode Wostyn, CICM, donated to the museum a number of Lowland Religious Relics that are now exhibited in a back room corner of the museum. Other donated items include, among others, a solar painting made by Jordan Mang-usan that was donated by Fr, Joseph Van Daelen, a Benjamin Mendoza painting of a nose flute player by Fr. Ghisleen de Vos, a sangadil painting-on- wood by Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, wood-carved image of the first Ifugao terrace builder by Lourdes Bahatan, wooden art collections by Fr. Lode Wostyn, CICM, a pukok (wooden food box) from Greg Sabado, and another pukok or food/storage containers and stools/benches from the SLU Chapel.

In 1990, the SLU Museum of Arts and Cultures and the CICM Archive was assigned to Mr. Isikias T. Picpican, to maintain the continuous operations of the museum and the separately organized SLU-CICM Archives.

In 1997, the curator organized the living tradition component of the museum. Challenged by the fast disappearance of the bearers of tradition, the elders, the religious practitioners like the mumbaki, mambunongs, or mandadawaks, etc., the curator embarked on the collection of intangible heritage materials like folktales, folksongs, chants, beliefs, rituals, music, and dances, among others. Volunteer Cordillera students in the University were organized for this living tradition component. The SLU Cordillera Cultural Performing Group (SLU-CCPG), a university-wide organization was organized for the preservation, promotion and development of this living tradition component. Ethnic songs and dances, arts and crafts, were researched, rehearsed and re-lived through cultural presentations and live performances.

Today, the SLU Museum of Arts and Cultures, now housed at the 2nd Floor, Msgr. Charles Vath Library Building, is known all over and is listed in the Lonely Planet Travel Guide used by tourists as a must place to see in Baguio among local and foreign tourist alike.

Now on its 40th anniversary, the museum, guided by the vision-mission of the University and the Museum of Arts and Cultures, is gaining acclaimed as an excellent center for the preservation and promotion of the indigenous people’s culture and traditions through systematic collection and conservation, documentation and research, and exhibition and promotion that will develop cultural sensitivity and appreciation of the indigenous traditions among its patrons, encourage interest in cultural and anthropological studies, and provide facilities and services.