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 to five billion upon European arrival.
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.
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.
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 1,600 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 here.