Winter Count

winter count

This large cotton cloth covered in drawings from the Rosebud Reservation in south-central South Dakota is known as a "winter count," and came to the Museum in the late 19th century. Sketched in pencil, the cloth is adorned with an array of figures and objects from Sioux culture including tipis, houses, animals, trees, and horses with riders. This object held much importance as the historical record of the tribe. Images representing special events would be sketched onto the count to aid the memory in keeping history alive.

Comanche Cougar Skin Quiver


As an incredibly ornate piece of hunting equipment, this quiver and arrow set that came to the Museum in 1900 is a stunning example of Comanche craftsmanship. The shafts of all the arrows are stained a different color and are adorned with feathers. The quiver itself is made from cougar fur and has a fringe of cougar skin pieces that hang from the bottom. White, yellow, red, and blue beads are woven in a geometric pattern on the shoulder strap and  the fringes.

Feather Cape

feather cape

This feather cape was bought at an auction in England by William Sturtevant in 1987 with funds from the Milwaukee Public Museum's Friends of the Museum. It is believed to date to the 1830s and was made as part of the Iroquois "whimsy" complex, possibly by the Ottawa or Huron. The cape's feathers come from male and female mallard, gadwell, peacock, goose, and pheasant. The cape is sewn together with feathers and the neck ties are made from yellow silk. It is thought that the cape was produced for sale specifically to Europeans, as it matches the European fashion requirements of that time.

Lacandon Collection

face bowl

The Lacandon are an indigenous Mayan-speaking group living in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Today, only 300-500 Lacandon remain. One of the few groups not fully colonized by the Spanish, the Lacandon retained their indigenous religion until recently. The Museum's collection includes 113 objects widely representative of the group's material culture. Peter Thornquist collected most of the items in 1979 while visiting the Lacandon village of Metzabok, Mexico. The collection is important since it reflects items before tourism encroached the area.

Siberian Coat

fish skin coat
The Milwaukee Public Museum purchased this coat from the Commercial Museum in Philadelphia, PA in 1919. Thought to be collected in the 1890s, this child's coat is made from fish-skin and decorated with a red and black border. Fish-skin coats are warm and waterproof, and are typically used as a kind of raincoat, usually large enough to be worn over a skin or bird parka for added protection from the wind and rain. Garments made from fish-skins are more often used by groups that live near rivers or the sea. Intact fish-skin clothing from such an early date is quite rare.

Dogrib (Tłįchǫ) Collection


Dr. Nancy Oestreich Lurie, then with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, collected these items in 1967 from the Tłįchǫ (tɬhĩtʃhõ), formerly called Dogrib, for the Milwaukee Public Museum during a research trip with Dr. June Helm of the University of Iowa. The Tłįchǫ live in the Northwest Territories, Canada between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake. Dr. Lurie and Dr. Helm were the first anthropologists to conduct extensive ethnological research with the Tłįchǫ. The Museum’s collection reflects a variety of aspects of Tłįchǫ domestic life.

Kiowa Cradleboard and Cover

Cradleboard and Cover

This cradleboard and cover were collected in Oklahoma City by George Gorton of Racine, WI who donated it to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1962. It was made by a master beadworker named Doyetone around 1904 for her grandson William "Bill" Bear.

Mambila Collection

Mambila Collection

The Mambila (Mambilla) are an agricultural group that inhabits northern Nigeria and western Cameroon. Gilbert Schneider of Ohio University collected in the Mambila grasslands of northern Nigeria from 1947 to 1951. Schneider tried to obtain materials relating to all aspects of Mambila life ranging from ancestral objects, such as this terra cotta shrine figure, to clothing. He kept detailed records on how the items were used by the Mambila, key information for museum collections.

Waiwai Collection

Waiwai Collection

The Waiwai are a native Amerindian group living in southern Guyana (formerly British Guiana) and northern Brazil. There are approximately 200 Waiwai living in Guyana and 2,000 in Brazil. Of the native groups in Guyana, the Waiwai have remained the most traditional, but have still been influenced by missionaries to the region. The 33 items in this collection mainly represent everyday items such as basketry, bow/arrows, and body ornamentation. The collection was acquired in 1965 on an expedition led by Lon W. Mericle, a Museum Research Associate in Anthropology.

Hopi Collection

hopi collection

This collection came to the Museum through a 1911 summer expedition to the Hopi reservation in Arizona led by MPM Curator of Anthropology Samuel A. Barrett. The collection consists of about 3,300 items. The collection documents a wide variety of items from baskets and clothing to spiritual items, as well as pigments and tools used in their production.