The Harbinger-of-Spring, Erigenia bulbosa was thought to be gone from the state of Wisconsin; its last state record was this 1932 collection specimen. Once found in late April and early May in rich mesic woods in the southeastern part of the state, it was rediscovered 68 years later in a rich sugar maple-beech woods farther north than it was believed to exist.
This early plant specimen was collected by Thomas Bruhin, a Catholic priest who came to Wisconsin in 1869 and was assigned to a parish in New Coeln, now part of Milwaukee County. Bruhin collected many plants from the surrounding area and gave them to the Wisconsin Natural History Society which, in turn, donated them to the newly formed Milwaukee Public Museum in 1883.
This item is the type specimen of Tennessee quillwort, Isoetes tennesseensis. A type specimen is the plant or animal used to describe a new species or variety and is the specimen which the new name is permanently attached to. The Tennessee quillwort was discovered in the Hiwassee River in Tennessee and its name and description was published in 2003 in the American Fern Journal. All of the Botany Department's type collection has been scanned and the digital images will soon be available on the Museum's website.
The Increase A. Lapham Memoir Book is a collection of dried, pressed plant specimens and other mementos collected by Lapham or sent to him. The front page is signed by Lapham and dated 1867. Plants include seaweeds, mosses, lichens, ferns and flowering plants collected throughout the United States and Scotland mainly in the 1860s and early 1870s. Lapham, who came to Wisconsin in 1836, was a true renaissance man who had many interests including the flora of the state, fossils and minerals, Indian mounds and weather.
Several pipe bowls and pipe stems of the Iowa tribe have entered into the collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum thanks to the efforts of Alanson Skinner, a former curator of Anthropology. The exquisite craftsmanship of each pipe is a testament to the importance of the ritual of smoking during ceremonies by the ruling members of society. The bowls of the pipes are made from a stone known as catlinite, and the stems are made from ash wood. Decorations on the stems include wrapped porcupine quills and feathers and sometimes bird skins.
This collection was obtained from the Ndyuka of Suriname, a small Caribbean country on the northeast coast of South America. The Ndyuka are one of the six major Maroon groups living in either Suriname or nearby French Guiana. Maroon is a term used to denote the descendants of African runaway slaves from Dutch plantations during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The culture is thus strongly rooted in West and Central African cultural traditions with some Amerindian influences.
This blanket is thought to have come from the Koniag people of Kodiak Island, Alaska. It is made of two layers of tan eider skins sewn together with 52 eider throat skins along the edges. These blankets are very rare and were prized for their warmth. The museum is fortunate to have one other in its collection, which also comes from Alaska.
Milwaukee Public Museum Curator of Anthropology Dr. Samuel Barrett collected these items while on a museum expedition to the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in 1910. He witnessed an eight day dance which brought Native Americans from all over Wisconsin and as far away as Oklahoma to the reservation. In addition to collecting material objects for the Museum, he recorded field notes about the dance and other cultural aspects of the Ojibwe that would rarely have been seen or documented otherwise.
The boat and paddle were made by the Crowsheart Mandan at Fort Berthold, North Dakota in the early 1900s. This boat is made from a large cowhide, though traditional boats were made from buffalo. The bull boat has a bent-pole framework covered by the hide, which makes it waterproof. Circular boats are rarely found in North America and were only used for crossing rivers and streams, not for long journeys. This boat is 5.5 feet in diameter with sides 1.5 feet high and could carry up to five people.
There are 115 pieces of archaeological Peruvian featherwork in the museum's collection. A majority of the items come from the collection of Malcolm Whyte, a former Milwaukee attorney and civic leader, who donated them in 1964. Most of these items come from the southwest coast of Peru, and some are believed to be from the Inca civilization (approximately AD 1400-1532). The items are very delicate and rare. The dry air and heat of Peru preserved them in burials for several hundred years. Objects from the collection can be seen on the 3rd Floor Pre-Columbian Mezzanine.