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Acts of Faith: Religion & the American West Presentation by the NY Historical Society (Hybrid - NY Historical Online)

Monday, August 19, 2024
1:00 pm2:00 pm

Acts of Faith: Religion and the American West is a new exhibition that explores the interplay between religion and US expansion in the 19th-century West in order to illuminate how religion became such a vital and contested part of American life. Acts of Faith takes visitors beyond the mythologized “Wild West” of popular culture to present a fuller and surprising picture: a West populated by preachers, pilgrims, and visionaries and home to sacred grounds and cathedrals that kindled spiritual feeling from the woodlands of New York all the way to the valleys of California. The narrative highlights the experiences and traditions of people who, voluntarily or involuntarily, took part in this chaotic and transformative era—including diverse Native peoples, Protestant missionaries, Mormon settlers, Catholic communities, African American migrants, Jewish traders, and Chinese immigrant workers.

Among the highlights of the exhibition, which comprises more than 60 objects and dozens of images and documents, are Robert Weir’s portrait of the famous Seneca chief Sagoyewatha, or “Red Jacket”; a bulto (wooden statue) of San Ysidro Labrador from 19th-century New Mexico on loan from the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe; and an emigrant trunk labeled “From Basel to Salt Lake City, Utah” that belonged to a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on loan from the Utah Historical Society.

These are accompanied by specially commissioned installations, multimedia elements, and immersive displays, including a dollhouse-sized diorama of St. Louis’ first Rosh Hashanah ceremony; a large mural depicting a San Ysidro Feast Day in Taos, New Mexico; an illustrated interactive journey to the California goldfields with 49er Sarah Royce; a lifesize, lifelike figure of African American pioneer Clara Brown; and an evocation of a 19th-century classroom. Media elements include visualizations of the Mormon exodus to Utah and the saga of Indian boarding schools as well as an audio guide on the Bloomberg Connects app, offering readings, music, and expert commentary from a range of historical and contemporary voices. Curated by Marci Reaven, vice president for history exhibitions and Lily Wong, associate curator.

Click here for a video about the presentation -