By Barbara LeBlanc
Freelance Writer, UCF Foundation Inc.
Thousands of people have visited “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” since the exhibition premiered at the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2013. But on Friday night, only UCF alumni were lucky enough to be guided through the exhibit by the very archaeologists who excavated many of the artifacts on display.
Pegasus Professors Arlen and Diane Chase were at the Boston Museum of Science to lead about 70 UCF alumni on a special viewing of the largest Maya exhibit ever mounted in the United States. Michael Johnson, dean of the UCF College of Sciences and a Boston native, was also on hand.
Only a portion of the full exhibit is on display in Boston, as it travels around the country, but it includes ample materials unearthed by the Chases and the UCF students who dig alongside them in Belize. The husband-and-wife team have been leading excavations of Maya treasures there since 1979, first at Santa Rita Corozal and since 1985 at Caracol.
The Chases, who came to UCF in 1984 to establish a program in Maya archaeology, work only with UCF students or graduates at Caracol, which at 200 square kilometers is the largest known Maya site. The couple was fresh off their 2015 digging season when they traveled to Boston to point out exhibit highlights for alumni and answer their questions. The Chases consulted heavily on the exhibit.
“We read every label and proofed them,” said Diane of the displays of their work. She serves as UCF’s vice provost for academic program quality. Arlen is an associate dean in the College of Sciences.
“I already had tickets to come to this exhibit, so I was planning to come anyway,” said Roberto Santamaria ’09, deputy director of public health for the town of Framingham, Mass. “But it’s unbelievable that we can be with the people who actually did the archaeology. It’s a little surreal.”
Ariel Shapiro ’11, a behavior therapist for Southbay Mental Health, said she never thought she’d see a UCF alumni event in Massachusetts. “I thought I’d have to go to Florida,” she said. She was so pleased when she heard of the Museum of Science event, she immediately decided to attend.
Santamaria is Costa Rican, and was thrilled to see his own culture and heritage presented in such depth. And the fact that professors from his alma mater were involved? “That makes it even better,” he said.