Steel and wood knife, leather scabbard. Late19th to early 20th century, collected within 350 miles of Nairobi, Kenya. Ethnology, Hughes Collection. UMMAA 14527.

The vast majority of the Museum’s collections come from scientific expeditions—systematic archaeological and ethnographic research projects conducted around the world. For a few collections, though, their story may be more important than their scientific value. This East African knife was collected by U-M alumnus Charles A. Hughes, writer and secretary for the African Balloonograph Expedition of 1909. Led by Chicago newspaper publisher (and founder of the Boy Scouts in America) W.D. Boyce, the expedition sought to produce a photographic record of African wildlife from a hot air balloon. Boyce spared no expense in funding and promoting his expedition. It launched with great fanfare—and miserably failed, the victim of inadequate equipment, poor planning, and strong winds. After Boyce returned to Chicago, Hughes remained in Kenya (then British East Africa) to assure that at least some photographs were produced. In 1910, Hughes offered his collection of photographs, hunting trophies, and curios to Head Curator Alexander Ruthven at the U-M University Museum. The artifacts were transferred to the Museum of Anthropology in 1929.

Back to Day 26 or continue to Day 28.

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.