It is not often that comparative botanical specimens come to the Museum pre-packaged in jars. In 2007, Michael Benz, of Benz Microscope in Ann Arbor, donated this collection of 114 small jars of pollen from a wide variety of plant species to the Museum. At the time, the Museum was purchasing microscopes from his company. Upon learning of our ethnobotanical comparative collections, he offered to donate this historic collection of plant pollen and associated slides. During the early 20th century, the Swan-Myers Company was a pharmaceutical company in Indianapolis engaged in producing patent medicines and early vaccines. The company prepared these bottles of pollen for use in the research and treatment of allergies. Many pharmaceutical companies engaged in such research in the first few decades of the 20th century. Certain varieties of pollen were so desirable that they sold at more than 14 times the price of gold. The original slides donated with these bottles were too degraded to be useful and so were not retained, but the identified pollen in the jars can be made into new slides to aid in the identification of archaeological pollen.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.