Passenger Pigeon

Once the most common bird in North America, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) or wild pigeon lived in enormous migratory flocks that some estimate were between three billion to five billion upon European arrival.

Lake Amatitlán Collection

Milwaukee Public Museum director Dr. Stephan F. de Borhegyi spent many years excavating in and around Lake Amatitlán in Guatemala. This area was occupied over a great length of time by the Maya, from 500 BC to the Spanish Conquest (about AD 1500). Many items were brought up from the lake by divers, including several ceramic censers, containers used to burn copal incense, which played an important role in Maya rituals. The Milwaukee Public Museum is one of the primary repositories of artifacts from sites from this area.

Pre-Columbian Gold

The Milwaukee Public Museum's Pre-Columbian Gold collection comes from Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Mexico. Until the mid-1900s such items were worth more as scrap than as artifacts and were melted down, losing a great amount of information. For this reason, museum collections are vital in providing information on Pre-Columbian gold working.

Huron Smith Ethnobotanical collection

This specimen is part of the Huron Smith Ethnobotanical collections. It was gathered during the 1920s when Smith was doing fieldwork among the Indian tribes of Wisconsin. He recorded the native name and use for the 1600 plants he collected. This important collection was recently conserved using archival materials and rehoused in new cabinets, thanks to an IMLS grant. Smith's specimens, field notes and publications can now be viewed on the Museum's website at www.mpm.edu/collections/research/ethnobotany

Harbinger-of-Spring

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.

Bruhin Botanical Collection

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.

Tennessee Quillwort

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.

Lapham Book

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.

Iowa Effigy pipes

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.

Ndyuka Collection

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.