Claire McMahon

A Polynesian Mormon Archeological Site in Iosepa, Utah

(Dr. Bethany Usher, Advisor)

As an Archaeology-Anthropology double major I am passionate about understanding and preserving culture for the benefit of future knowledge.  My Presidential Scholars project will allow me the opportunity to learn about Iosepa, a town founded in Utah during the late 1800’s by a Polynesian Mormon community.  After only twenty-eight years, the town was abandoned and now remains as an archaeological site.  A tradition has since formed in which the descendent community returns to Iosepa every Memorial Day weekend to celebrate their heritage. 

Their goal is to develop the site as a living history center for Polynesian culture, however the current landowner is in favor of a more passive plan.  I will travel to Utah and develop an interpretive plan for Iosepa that the landowner can put into affect which will reflect the community’s input as to how the site should be interpreted.  This will incorporate collecting ethnographic data from the community to learn the key messages they wish the public to know.  After my analysis of the data, I intend to return to Utah for the presentation of my plan for Iosepa to the landowner and descendent communities.  By completing this project I can ensure the community is involved in the development, preservation, and interpretation of the site in a way meaningful to them, and further the dissemination of our nation’s diverse cultures.