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Banner graphic for the exhibition entitled 'Cannibals: Myth & Reality'

About the Exhibit

In this thoughtful (and gore-free!), one-of-a-kind exhibit, you’ll learn that cannibals aren’t who you think they are. They span cultures and circumstances – from European kings and queens, American and European sailors, and American colonists, to accident survivors, the sick, and more.

“One of the things we really wanted to do with this exhibit is to ask visitors to step into the shoes of people who were faced with real, difficult decisions and to make people think. Given the same circumstances, would they make the same choices? Can I empathize with that person? Do I understand what happened?” —Dr. Emily Anderson, Exhibit Developer via KPBS TV

What to Expect

In this exhibit, visitors will:

  • Hear the emotional first-hand account of the Uruguayan rugby players who, trapped high in the Andes Mountains, resorted to cannibalism to survive.
  • Learn why European explorers falsely used the label of “cannibal” to enslave and control people around the world.
  • Step into the apothecary shop to find out how the human body has been used as medicine.
  • While stranded at sea, make a difficult decision among members of your group. You won’t want to draw the short straw!
  • Decide if you already do things that make you a cannibal, too.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

“Get past the ick factor. Stifle the barbecue jokes. Cannibals: Myth & Reality is a poignant and beautiful experience, the type that you hope to get at a museum. It deftly guides you from one emotional place to another, revealing connections across time and cultures, until you reach a point of deeper understanding. Through history, art, films, interactive displays and games, visitors confront what seems, at first, to be an unthinkable choice. By the end, you might realize that it’s far more nuanced and complicated.” — The San Diego Union-Tribune

Exhibit Images


Thank you to our supporters:

The Loughridge Family

City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture

County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program

Balboa Park Online Collaborative