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Christmas in the Philippines

Nov. 19, 2007 - January 31, 2008
Entry Floor Gallery

"Christmas in the Philippines," a new holiday exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum," gives a glimpse at the materials, skills and commercial output of some very creative, iconic Christmas decor from the mid-1900s. The MSU Museum presents a collection of wooden molds from the Philippine Islands and the finished papier-mache Christmas figures produced using these mango-wood molds. The exhibit runs through January 2008 in the museum's Entry Floor Gallery.

In the town of Paete, Laguna in the Philippines, an old tradition has been preserved. Molds (called takaan; pronounced "tah-kah-ahn") are hand-carved from the local mango wood and strips of newspaper are glued over the outside of the molds with rice paste. The newspaper layer is then cut off and the two halves are glued together with additional strips of newspaper. The technique was used early in the twentieth century to create religious images and toys for the children. After World War II it became an important local industry supplying holiday figures and festival masks to many nations including the U.S. The wooden figures that serve as the molds are generally carved by men of the town while entire families make the papier-mache pieces and paint them.

Pieces in the exhibition include a variety of molds and painted papier-mache figures of Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, angels and stars. The material for this exhibit is drawn from MSU Museum Curator of History Val Berryman's personal collection of over 3,000 Christmas objects and images from around the world. The entire collection is being donated to the MSU Museum.

"I bought a couple of carvings of Christmas trees first and then a wooden Santa face. When I discovered that I already had several of the finished papier-mache pieces from the Philippines in my collection I really got interested in finding enough items to create an exhibit," notes Berryman.

Berryman has been collecting Christmas-related artifacts for more than 20 years, including advertising and promotional items, illustrations, cards, packaging, figurines, decorations and other collectibles from around the world. Over the years, he has shared his collections in exhibits at the MSU Museum and throughout Greater Lansing. Contact Turner Dodge House in Lansing and the Williamston Depot Museum for other Christmas exhibits.

The MSU Museum is the state's first Smithsonian Institution affiliate and marks 150 years of discovery in 2007. The MSU Museum features three floors of special collections and changing exhibits and is open seven days a week free of charge (donations are encouraged). The museum is located on West Circle Drive next to Beaumont Tower on the MSU campus in East Lansing and is accessible to persons with disabilities. Hours are Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. The Museum Store is also full of holiday shopping ideas, many items under $10.

Visitor parking is available in front of the building and at metered spaces at the new Grand River Ramp, one block away at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Charles Street. For more information, call (517) 355-2370 or see http://museum.msu.edu.