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.
R. N. Hawley, a native Milwaukeean, was a surgeon on the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. While on several voyages to northern Alaska and Siberia, Hawley collected material from various Inuit (Eskimo) groups. The collection, acquired by the Museum in 1900, consists of 255 objects that include fishing equipment, models of kayaks, carved walrus tusks, and housewares made from bone and wood. The early date of Hawley's collection illustrates the more traditional forms of these types of native items, prior to the groups modifying items for tourism.
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 Third Floor.
Milford Chandler was an automotive engineer and collector of American Indian material. He did most of his collecting between 1915 and 1926 while living in Chicago. The Miami material was collected by him in Peru, Indiana. The material includes a woman's robe, a pair of woman's leggings, a pair of men's leggings, and a hair ornament. The majority of the Miami were relocated in the 1800s to Oklahoma. Those who stayed in Indiana became largely acculturated into American society; as a result, material culture from the Indiana Miami is quite rare.
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.
There are 256 complete ceramic vessels from Arkansas in the Milwaukee Public Museum's collections, most dating to the Middle (AD 1200-1400) and Upper (AD 1400-European contact) Mississippian periods. A large portion of the collection came from three donors, C.W. Riggs, G.E. Pilquist, and T.M.N. Lewis. The first two were artifact collectors and dealers; Riggs's material has no provenience other than "Arkansas," but Pilquist's items were collected from the Carden Bottoms area in west-central Arkansas.