DuBay Site Collection

The DuBay site was excavated in November 1941 by Dr. Philleo Nash prior to him becoming the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. Located about 12 miles north of Stevens Point, the site contained items from the John B. DuBay homestead. DuBay was a prominent frontiersman and fur trader in Wisconsin and Michigan in the mid to late 1800s. The excavation was one of the first archaeological studies of a mid-19th century historic site in the Midwest and the artifacts represent the only comprehensive historical archaeological collection at the MPM.

Sami Collection

The Sami, sometimes called Lapps, are an indigenous European group who currently inhabit the northernmost regions of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and a small part of Russia. Our Sami collection of approximately 100 pieces is the largest in North America and possibly outside of Europe. The majority of the objects are utilitarian in nature, such as clothing and household objects, but there are some decorative pieces as well. The items were donated to the museum between the late 1800s and the 1990s.

Kwakiutl Masks

In the winter of 1914-1915, Dr. S.A. Barrett, the curator of Anthropology, traveled to Ft. Rupert, British Columbia to obtain a comprehensive collection of Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw) material culture. Like many scholars at the time, Barrett believed that the native cultures of North America were disappearing and that it was crucial to save them before they vanished entirely. Performance masks, like this wolf mask, form perhaps the most significant elements of Barrett's highly regarded collection. You can see several of these masks on display in the Northwest Coast area on the 2nd floor.

Tlingit Pole

In 1904, this mortuary totem pole was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. It was apparently too fragile to journey back to Alaska, and therefore entered into the collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum. "Totem Poles" are appropriately called crest poles because they display family-owned symbols of a particular kinship group. Crests can be compared with the "Coats of Arms" of European noble families.

House Model

This replica of the Haida Chief Skidegate's house, as well as twenty-four other house models, was first exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The models serve as a snapshot of the 19th century village of Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia. As the original houses were far too large to transport, anthropologists commissioned Haida craftsmen to construct smaller and thus more mobile versions that would allow for the exhibition and study of the Haida aesthetic around the world.

Spencer Lake Horse Skull

The Spencer Lake site was excavated in 1936 by W.C. McKern, Milwaukee Public Museum Curator of Anthropology at that time. The site is an ancient (AD 1100 – 1400) burial mound located near Spencer Lake in Burnett County in northwest Wisconsin. At the bottom of the mound, an intact horse skull was discovered, a startling find as it was believed that horses had gone extinct in North America around 10 million years ago and not reintroduced until the arrival of the Spanish.

Menominee Women painting

This oil painting by Samuel M. Brookes from 1858 is the accompaniment to the painting of Menominee men from the same year. The subject matter is exceptionally rare because it is a portrait of American Indian women. It is a visual record of the ways in which these women used European goods such as textiles and glass beads, and fashioned them into their own aesthetic. The imagery also represents the gradual fading out of traditional Menominee materials due to trade.

Menominee Men painting

In 1858, Mr. S.L. Rood commissioned Samuel M. Brookes to complete a painting of a group of Menominee men. The names of the five men are written on the back of the canvas as follows: standing left to right, Na-a-nos-a-ko-sa, and Tik-ko; seated left to right, Ne-kun-a-quak, Kis-kan-a-koem, and Na-ke-wai-mi. Aside from its value as an excellent painting, this piece is invaluable because it clearly depicts the way that these men dressed, wore their hair, and represented themselves at that time.

James Howard Collection

The Milwaukee Public Museum acquired the Howard collection, consisting of over 1500 items, in 1985, thanks to the generosity of Ethel Herzfeld, a devoted friend of the Museum. James Howard, a cultural anthropologist, was born in 1925 in Redfield, South Dakota. He enjoyed the respect and acceptance of Indian people acquainted with him and participated regularly in powwows throughout the Plains area.

Cherokee coat

Two Cherokee women named Nancy A. Riley and Polly Webber are responsible for the intricate embroidery of this fringed leather coat made around 1865 for a William Gallaher of the Indian Brigade assigned to the Indian Territories. The coat was donated to the Milwaukee Public Museum by the Upham family in 1900.