Fon Boat/Shrine Piece

boat piece
This unusual 20th century carving is one of three such known. It is attributed to the Fon culture of the Benin Republic, but is most likely the creation of an Ijebu or Anago artist. These two ethnicities are Yoruba-speaking peoples living in Nigeria and Benin respectively. The meaning of this object remains as puzzling as its origins. The figures in the boat may represent members of the cult of the sea goddess Yemoja or one of her followers. Perhaps the entire composition is intended to represent the cult deities themselves in procession to some important feast.

Knight Figurines

knight figurine
Ancient burial mounds of the Hopewell culture were excavated on the Knight family farm in western Illinois. These mounds, dated to AD 150-400, contained human remains and six naturalistic ceramic figurines. These rare figures include four female individuals, two of which hold infants, one male, and one that cannot be accurately identified. It is believed that all were likely made by a single artisan. The figurines are intricately decorated and painted, revealing important details about Hopewell dress and adornment.

Red Hawk Ledger

ledger art

This ledger book was "captured" by Captain R. Miller from Red Hawk on January 8, 1891 at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, shortly after the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Milwaukee Public Museum purchased the ledger from collector H.H. Hayssen in 1897. Ledger art was a medium of Plains Indian art from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and illustrates the changes in Plains Indian life during this time. The Red Hawk ledger consists of 105 ink and crayon drawings done by Red Hawk and other Sioux men. Learn more about this collection here.

Peruvian Mummies


Three Peruvian mummies from the Chancay culture that inhabited the central coast of Peru from AD 1000 – 1450 are part of the Milwaukee Public Museum's collections. Buried in either a flexed or seated position and wrapped in several layers of textiles, the bodies are not actually embalmed but preserved naturally by the extreme dryness of the environment. Little is known about the Chancay civilization as many of the sites were destroyed by looting or bulldozing. Two of the mummies can currently be seen in the Pre-Columbian exhibit on the 3rd floor mezzanine.

Emerald Mound Pipes

These limestone effigy pipes, excavated from the Emerald Mound site in southwestern Mississippi, were donated to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1955. Emerald Mound served primarily as a ceremonial platform with a temple structure during the Mississippian period (AD 1250-1600). Tobacco was regularly used in Mississippian ceremonies to assist religious leaders in communicating with the spirit world. The pipes represent a cougar, two rattlesnakes, a kneeling human, and a bird/composite form.

Mitchell Civil War coat

civil war coat

This Mitchell Civil War uniform, part of a larger group of Mitchell militia material, belonged to John Lendrum Mitchell, son of prominent Milwaukee banker Alexander Mitchell. John served in the Wisconsin 24th Infantry and rose to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. After the Civil War, John was a gentleman farmer and had a large estate in what is today West Allis, Wisconsin. He was very well educated and served in the Wisconsin legislature and later served as a United States Senator. John's second son, William, rose to prominence in the U.S.

Park City Grays Uniform

military coat
Park City was the original name of Kenosha, Wisconsin and the Park City Grays were the local militia. The group was mustered into the Wisconsin 1st infantry at Milwaukee and sent, wearing their gray coats, to guard Washington DC at the outbreak of the Civil War. Before the Civil War, the color of the 1st Wisconsin Militia (as well as many other states) was gray. However, gray was the color of the Confederate Army as well, and at the beginning of the Civil War, the Union quickly changed their color to blue. This coat was worn by Sergeant Warren Graham in 1861.

Solomon Juneau Collection

solomon juneau

A French Canadian fur trader, politician and land speculator, Solomon Juneau was one of the founders of the city of Milwaukee. In 1818, Juneau came to Milwaukee to work as a clerk at the American Fur Company's trading post in Milwaukee and saw potential in the city. Shortly thereafter, he won a pre-emption from the government and acquired land between the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. Here, Juneau developed the Milwaukee Journal and became the postmaster for the emerging city. In 1846 he was elected the first mayor of Milwaukee.

Works Progress Administration Murals

One of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal administration policies, the Works Progress Administration, offered jobs to keep people employed during the Great Depression. At the Milwaukee Public Museum, Director Samuel A. Barrett wanted to keep his staff employed, so he designated space for murals throughout the museum to depict different exhibits and periods in world history. This endeavor allowed the current museum staff to stay employed during a time when many people were losing their jobs. This mural shown here is by Albert O.

Frackelton Pottery

Susan Frackelton, born in Milwaukee in 1848, was a local artist for most of her life, but was internationally known and honored. She was a major supporter of the Arts and Crafts movement in Wisconsin and taught local women how to paint their own pots as a hobby. Frackelton's main type of artistic expression was pottery and she later started to experiment with salt glazed stoneware. Frackelton was honored for the first time for her ceramic expertise at the 1889 Paris Exposition and in 1893, she won many awards for her stone glazed stoneware at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.