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Our comprehensive collection includes more than 3,000 artifacts from more than 70 countries across six continents.



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Every year I go to the library and learn something new.
– Martin G., Student
Audubon Middle School




Artifacts for Masks, Religions, and Musical Instruments

The Spiritual Connections exhibition encourages students to step outside their daily experiences and to examine the role that spirituality plays in many cultures. Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum challenges the idea that there is one correct way to view spirituality by offering students the opportunity to examine the diverse ways that people from around the world practice their beliefs – with masks, organized religion, and musical instruments. Students consider our Spiritual Connections by exploring both the similarities and differences between their own beliefs and those of their classmates and the rest of the world.


Students discover the many uses of masks throughout the world, enjoying the chance to change their own appearances with carnival masks from Italy and Bolivia or initiation masks from the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

  • Theater masks from Asia (e.g. Japanese Noh) and Europe (e.g. Greek Thalia)
  • Ritual masks from Africa (e.g. Congolese Kifwebe initiation mask), Asia (e.g. Papua New Guinea Savi ancestor mask), and North American (e.g. Canadian Tlingit transformation mask)
  • Dance Masks from Central America (e.g. Guatemalan el torito mask) and North America (e.g. Mexican diablomask)
  • Carnival Masks from Europe (e.g. Italian commedia del arte mask), North America (e.g. American mardi gras mask), and South America (e.g. Bolivian condor mask)


From tracing a finger labyrinth modeled after labyrinths on the floors of European medieval cathedrals, examining the texture of Hindu prayer beads, or reading passages from a Muslim Qur’an published in Malaysia, students learn how beliefs and values influenced peoples’ lives from Ancient Assyria to modern-day countries. Handling and discussing some of the ritual objects believers use to practice their faiths brings the diversity and similarities of religion into focus.

  • Ancient religions:
    • Icons from Africa, Central America, Europe, and Middle East (e.g. ancient Assyrian lamassu)
    • Ritual Objects from Africa, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. ancient Egyptian canopic jars)
    • Sacred Texts from Central America (e.g. Mayan Popol Vuh)
  • Animist religions
  • Ritual Objects from Africa, Asia, and North America (e.g. Thai spirit house)
  • Hinduism:
    • Icons from Asia and North America (e.g. Indian Shiva statue)
    • Sacred Texts from North America (e.g. American Srimad Bhagwatam)
    • Prayer Aids from Asia (e.g. Indian rudraksha prayer beads)
    • Holiday Objects from Asia and North America (e.g. American holi dye)
  • Buddhism:
    • Icons from Asia (e.g. Thai Buddha)
    • Ritual Objects from Asia and North America (e.g. Nepalese dorje thunderbolt)
    • Sacred Texts from Asia (e.g. Japanese Dharma)
    • Prayer Aids from Asia (e.g. Tibetan singing bowl)
  • Judaism:
    • Ritual Objects from Asia, Middle East, and North America (e.g. Australian tzedakah box)
    • Sacred Texts from Middle East and North America (e.g. Israeli Torah)
    • Prayer Aids from Middle East and North America (e.g. American yad pointer)
    • Holiday Objects from Africa, Europe, Middle East, and North America (e.g. Russian hanukia candleholder)
  • Christianity:
    • Icons from Asia, Europe, Middle East, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. Korean Jesus plaque)
    • Ritual Objects from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. Ethiopian cross)
    • Sacred Texts from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. Armenian bible)
    • Prayer Aids from Africa, Europe, Middle East, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. Honduran rosario prayer beads)
    • Holiday Objects from Africa, Europe, Middle East, Central America, North America, and South America (e.g. Italian presepe nativity scene)
  • Islam:
    • Ritual Objects from Africa, Asia, Middle East, and North America (e.g. Moroccan kufi skull cap)
    • Sacred Texts from Asia and Middle East (e.g. Malay Qur’an)
    • Prayer Aids from Africa and Middle East (e.g. Iranian turbah prayer stone)
  • Sikhism:
    • Icons from Asia (e.g. Indian Guru Nanak poster)
    • Ritual Objects from Asia (e.g. Indian kara bracelet)
    • Sacred Texts from Asia (e.g. Pakistani Nitnem daily prayers book)


Music is a critical part of many societies around the world. Students make their own music while playing the Japanese “koto” harp or the American banjo while learning about their cultural importance.

  • String instruments from Africa (e.g. Kenyan kora), Asia (e.g. Indian sitar), Europe (e.g. Russian balalaika), Middle East (e.g. Iranian tar), North America (e.g. American violin), and South America (e.g. Ecuadorian churrango)
  • Wind instruments from Asia (e.g. Chinese hulusi flute), Central America (e.g. Mexican flauta), Europe (e.g. Scottish bagpipes), and South America (e.g. Peruvian tarka flute)
  • Percussion instruments from Africa (e.g. Ghanaian dewuro-ta bell), Asia (e.g. Indonesian gamelon), Central America (e.g. Salvadoran maracas), Europe (e.g. Irish bodhran drum), North America (e.g. Trinidadean steel drum), and South America (e.g. Brazilian yampo)



Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum encourages student participation and enhances student learning by providing students with worksheets to be completed during each presentation. As an incentive, students who complete the worksheet receive a foreign coin.

Click here to learn more about the corresponding California Department of Education Content Standards for Commercial Connections.

Do you have an object for our collections? Learn how to donate an object here.

You can also explore our collection by country of origin on our old site.