Before Super Bowl XLII and “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, another attraction brought thousands of tourists to Glendale. The Bead Museum.
“We’re so worth the trip,” says the museum’s executive director, Katie Anderson.
Visitors from Belgium, Germany, Italy and Canada have come to see the museum’s collection of beads, which spans 30,000 years of human history. The museum’s theme is that there’s more to a bead than looks.
“People don’t understand that beads are used in different ways in different cultures,” says Anderson. “They have significant spiritual and social meaning.”
Beads predate both pictographs and petroglyphs, and they are found in almost every culture. They were used to mark social status, to communicate and as currency in trade. In fact, the word “bead” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “bidden,” which means to pray.
The first beads were made of organic materials such as bone, sea shells, amber and coral. The museum loosely defines a bead as “a pierced material for threading on string or wire.” So it seems as though almost anything can be a bead.
A visit to the museum begins with an orientation video and then moves to a timeline detailing human development through the history of beads. The timeline begins in 40,000 B.C. and extends through the 1970s and the modern bead movement.
“Looking at the timeline you can see the development of societies,” says Anderson.
Founded by Gabrielle Liese in Prescott in 1986, the Bead Museum moved to Glendale in 1999. The museum is small — there are about three galleries open to the public featuring beads, beaded sculptures and jewelry. A visiting exhibit, “Silver From Fashion to Fetish,” displays a collection of silver jewelry from all over the world.
“It’s a very interesting collection,” says Anderson. “As we put this exhibit together we learned about the different uses of silver for magic and healing.”
The gift shop (often the last leg of any visit to the museum) features jewelry by local artisans and beads for sale.
The Bead Museum
What: Collection of more than 100,000 beads on display.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday (free admission after 5 p.m.) and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: 5754 W. Glenn Drive, Glendale
Cost: $5 adults, $2.50 children age 4-12
Information: (623) 931-2737 or www.beadmuseumaz.org
• Check www.beadmuseum.org for a schedule of workshops and handson classes.
• International Family Fun Day 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 6. Features international performing artists, make-and-take activities, and museum tours. Free.
Take Interstate 17 north to Glendale Avenue and turn left. At 58th Avenue turn right and follow the signs to the museum.