South Charlotte

Masks and more at Wake Forest

Wake Forest Museum of Anthropology

On the Wake Forest University campus. 336-758-5282.

Here's a fine opportunity to sample different cultures without having to drive to Washington's Smithsonian, let alone mounting an around-the-world expedition.

Wake Forest University's Museum of Anthropology has been gathering cultural items since 1963, and a daytrip to the facility is an eye-opening look at how different (and in other ways, similar) folkways are around the world. Five exhibits are usually open at any one time.

Permanent holdings are from the Americas, Africa and Oceania. From Africa alone are items from 35 modern countries, representing traditional cultures from the Akan people of Ghana to the Zaramo of Tanzania. Civilizations closer to home range from roughly 20 native cultures of Mexico to a couple dozen Native American cultures in the United States, including the Cherokee and Catawba of the Carolinas.

There are ceremonial items, household implements, hunting and fishing tools, visually startling African masks, stunning pottery, children's dolls from Alaska's Kuskokwim River Valley and more.

Several times a year, objects are displayed in themed exhibits. Through March 3, the show deals with modern Japanese photography and how it reflects a rapidly changing society. April through August, recent acquisitions will be displayed; in fall, the themed exhibit is about Mexico's "Day of the Dead" festival.

One permanent displays focuses on traditional religions in Africa; another on archaeology in the Yadkin River Valley.

"Art of Sky, Art of Earth" points up Mayan beliefs about the universe - a hot topic this year, as the ancient Mayans' 5,125-year Long Count calendar ends Dec. 21. Note on your calendar, though, that this show closes May 19.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Admission: Free.

Travel time from Charlotte: 90 minutes.

Directions: Interstate 85 North to U.S. 52 North to I-40 Business West. Take Exit 5C; take Cherry Street/University Parkway north. Pass Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum; bear left to stay on University Parkway. Turn left into the Wake Forest campus. Go over two speed bumps and take the first left. Just past the yellow farmhouse, bear right and turn into the museum parking lot.