The Old Copper Complex (Culture) Collection contains native copper items made in the Great Lakes region from 3000 - 1000 B.C. The source for the copper was a Wisconsin quarry on Lake Superior; the raw copper and finished items were traded throughout the Midwest. The earliest copper items were utilitarian in nature, such as fish hooks and projectile points. Around 1500 BC more items of personal adornment were appearing, a change thought by archaeologists to signify increased social stratification.
Oil lamps were used throughout the Roman Empire and consequently are common artifacts from the ancient Mediterranean. The Milwaukee Public Museum's collection consists of over 200 lamps with examples from various time periods and regions, making it a very good study collection. The lamps were collected from a variety of sources over a span of about 100 years. Some of the lamps from this collection can be seen in the North African area on the 3rd floor.
The Navajo rug collection is the largest museum-held collection of its type in the state of Wisconsin, comprising over 200 rugs representing all major types, ages, and styles. As early as the 1800s, the Navajo were recognized for their high quality of weaving by both neighboring American Indian groups and the Spanish. The changing designs of the rugs have been influenced by trade and later, tourism. Several examples of these rugs can be seen in the Southwest exhibit on the 2nd floor.
The Cudahy-Massee collection resulted from an expedition led by Milwaukee Public Museum Director Dr. Samuel A. Barrett in 1928-1929 to Sudan and British East Africa (the colonies of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, now Tanzania). The expedition was primarily sponsored by Burt A. Massee, a Chicago industrialist and Milwaukee native, and John Cudahy, a Milwaukee businessman.