This summer, the Witte Museum is hosting a big, new exhibit called Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed in an amazing new space, the Mays Family Center. It’s a fun and well-balanced exhibit that will teach you and your kids about art, science, math, and history. You should make plans now to take your family to see Maya this summer, no later than September 5, 2016. During the month of June, the Witte is offering a Kick-Off to Summer Special of $5 off tickets for kids age 11 and under.
Maya is a massive exhibit, larger than any the Witte has hosted before. The importance of the exhibit is, in part, how it demonstrates cultural diversity. A timeline near the entrance shows that, while great civilizations like the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty rose and fell in Europe and Asia, the Americas were also home to an advanced civilization, that had its own calendar, astronomy, mathematics, written language, religion, politics, cuisine, clothing, and sports.
The first gallery shows monumental architecture, featuring reproductions deeply carved pyramids and stelae. The sculptures represent the power and divinity of Mayan kings and their obedience to the gods and the celestial calendar.
The Mayan language is fascinating. Ancient writings, collected in books called codices (singular: codex), are collections of glyphs that represent ideas and sounds. Scholars are still deciphering their meanings.
My son, F.T., said his favorite part of the exhibit was learning about Mayan math, which used a base 20 system rather than our familiar base 10. Mayan astronomers studied the skies and made amazingly accurate predictions of complex processes, such as the phases of Venus.
The exhibit features an interactive calendar that lets you translate dates from our familiar Gregorian calendar into Mayan dates.
To learn about Mayan architecture, you can build a corbeled arch. As you can see, I’m pretty proud of mine.
More hands-on activities allow you to reassemble a broken vase and try to lift a solid rubber ball.
For art lovers, there’s a gallery full of burial goods, including vases, pots, masks, and beads. These beautiful objects have powerful symbolism and reflect Mayan beliefs about the afterlife.
As you exit the gallery, shop the Marketplace for items like handmade gifts from Guatemala and fair trade chocolate. On our most recent visit, F.T. chose a book about how to read glyphs.
Before you visit, here are some tips. Maya has a surcharge of $20 for adults, $19 for seniors, and $17 for children ages four to eleven. (Children three and under are always free.) You can purchase advance tickets online for a specific date and time to enter; if you want an anytime ticket, call to make a reservation at (210) 357-1910.
There are ways to save money on your tickets. In June, take advantage of the Kickoff to Summer Special of $5 off tickets for children. You can buy a ticket bundle that also includes admission to another summer special exhibit, Splendor on the Range, about Native American horse culture. On Free Tuesdays, every Tuesday from 3:00–8:00 P.M., museum admission is free; however, the Kickoff to Summer Special coupons cannot be applied on Free Tuesdays. Every day, members get free admission and discounts on surcharges; a family membership is $75 per year.
Garage parking is free, and the entrance is on Avenue B. The museum entrance is currently on Tuleta Drive, but will move back to Broadway next year as part of the Witte’s transformation.
The Witte has a team of special people who bring Maya to life. On a recent Saturday morning, storyteller Carolina Quiroga-Stultz shared an origin story about vultures and a story about how the Maya learned singing and flute-playing from birds.
Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of motherhood, fertility, and medicine. She carries a rabbit: the Maya saw a rabbit in the moon, not a man in the moon. Find her in the “Watching the Skies” gallery, and ask her questions about the exhibit.
These encounters, as well as Maya Moments talks and Making Maya demonstrations, are included with admission to the exhibit. However, if you want to attend the Witte’s special Maya-themed evening events, including the Mind of the Maya series and Salud! Culinary Nights, be sure to buy tickets in advance—these have been selling out. Find more events on the calendar.
The Witte is offering summer camps for kids who want a deeper dive into archaeology, astronomy, architecture, and more. Camps for ages 7–8 will be offered June 13–17 and July 11–15; for ages 9–10, June 20–24 and July 18–22; and for ages 11–12, June 27–July 1 and July 25–29. The Witte is also a fun place to host a birthday party.
After Maya closes on September 5, the Mays Family Center will become available as an event space. Then, for the summer of 2017, the Mays Family Center will host another big exhibit, Whales: Giants of the Deep. Also in 2017, the Witte will open the Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery for the dinosaur obsessed, as well as galleries featuring Texas Wild and People of the Pecos.
Read more about Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed:
- Witte Museum Reveals the Hidden World of the Maya, San Antonio Express-News, May 9, 2016
- Massive ‘Maya’ exhibit fills new Mays Center, Deborah Martin, San Antonio Express-News, May 12, 2016
- Age of Discovery Continues with ‘Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed’ at Witte, Lea Thompson, Rivard Report, April 22, 2016
- New Exhibit Brings Maya Culture to Redesigned Witte, Texas Public Radio, May 18, 2016