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.
Aztalan, located on the Crawfish River in south-central Wisconsin near present-day Lake Mills, is approximately 50 miles west of Milwaukee. Occupied from about AD 1100-1250, Aztalan is the northernmost known outpost of the Mississippian culture. The site consists of large earthen temple mounds, houses, and an enormous stockade that enclosed 20 acres of the site.
The Museum's two Egyptian mummies, Djed-Hor and Padi-Heru, were acquired in 1887 and have been on display fairly regularly since that time. Both mummies came from Akhmim, Egypt and they were CT-scanned in 1986 and again in 2006. Padi-Heru is Ptolemaic (possibly 200-100 BC) and is probably under 30 years of age. He was a priest of the Min temple in Akhmim. (Min was the Egyptian ithyphallic god of fertility.)