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Ethnology and Material Culture

UMMAA : mask, Alexander collection

The Museum’s collections of more than 10,000 ethnographic objects include artifacts and artworks collected over the last 150 years from diverse cultures and regions. The collections began with the donation of a Chippewa canoe to the University in 1840; our most recent acquisitions include personal adornments and traditional shell currency from the Solomon Islands, collected in the 1970s. Numerous other collections have come to the Museum in the intervening decades.  
Strengths include:

• basket collections from Borneo, the Philippines, and Latin America

• the Napoleon Chagnon collection of Yanomami bows, arrows, baskets, and domestic implements from Venezuela

• a set of ritual paintings made by the Sawiyano people of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea

• handmade earthenware pottery made by indigenous artists in the U.S. Southwest, the Amazon, South Asia, and elsewhere

Three curators have overseen the Ethnographic Division and fostered its continued expansion and use. Melvin R. Gilmore collected objects during his work with the Arikara on the Prairies; Volney H. Jones made exceptional collections of birch bark, wooden baskets, and basswood, cattail, and sedge mats from the Great Lakes; and Richard Ford developed a collection of micaceous pottery from Pueblo, Apache, and Hispanic villages in the American Southwest.   

Today, the collections continue to grow and are used in research and exhibitions.