• 1964


    The Museum was founded in 1964 when the first Director, James Gunnerson began purchasing objects to support his teaching. 

  • The Museum's first object was a plaster cast of an Australopithecine hip bone. 

  • Native North American objects focusing on the Plains and the Southwest from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were soon added to establish the museum's cultural collections.

  • 1970s

    In 1971, the Anthropology Department was officially established in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and was given a new home in the Stevens Building, which included dozens of exhibit cases and a space for museum exhibitions. Laurence Santeford, the first dedicated museum staff, played an important role in establishing the professional face of the museum; he provided proper care and registration of museum objects, created exhibitions for students and visitors and taught a college course on museum methods .

  • To inaugurate the opening of the Museum’s public exhibitions, world-renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead visited the Anthropology Museum and NIU in 1977.

  • Whether by direct purchase or by donation, the Museum continued to acquire a growing number of collections in the following decades.

  • In the 1970s, notable new objects included Indonesian shadow puppets, ceremonial and household objects from Papua New Guinea, as well as archaeological material from NIU-led excavation projects, including an exciting mastodon discovery.

  • 1979

    In 1979, Milt Deemer took up the direction of the Museum.


    For twenty-two years, Deemer oversaw the growth of the collection, increased the number of public exhibitions, expanded community outreach and implemented new professional standards in museum care.

  • 1980s

    In the 1980s, there was a shift from acquisition by purchase to acquisition by donation and to South East Asia as a primary area of collecting. During this time, the Museum saw significant growth in its cultural collections and endeavored to serve the larger campus community.

  • 1990s

    In the 1990s, the Museum collection continued to grow and particularly benefited from its strong ties with NIU's Center for Southeast Asian Studies. A major gift in 1995 of over 100 textiles established the Richard M. Cooler Southeast Asian Textile Collection as a notable strength of the Museum. Today this important collection of handmade, traditional textiles from across Southeast Asia numbers more than 600.

  • 2001

    In 2001, Ann Wright Parsons took the helm of the Museum and directed the acquisition of many contemporary Southeast Asian objects, most significantly a collection from Cambodia that was immediately used for the exhibition “Cambodia Born Anew.”

  • 2012

    After being closed for renovations following a tragic campus shooting in 2008, Fay-Cooper Cole Hall reopened in 2012 and became the new space for the Museum.

  • 2014

    In 2014, the Museum celebrated its golden anniversary with a memorable gala event and exhibition entitled, “Curated by DeKalb: 50 Years of the Anthropology Museum.” This community co-curated exhibition displayed objects selected by NIU campus or community members, creating a collaborative exhibit that brings together NIU students, faculty, staff, local business owners and DeKalb residents.

  • 2016

    In 2016 the Pick Museum of Anthropology announced a name change in honor of NIU alumnus James Pick and his wife Rosalyn Laudati, who established an endowment for the museum. This generous gift is transforming the museum into the cultural heart of the Northern Illinois University.

  • Today

    Today, the museum continues to capitalize on its history, its collection and renewed campus and community relationships to reaffirm the significant role the museum plays in strengthening the educational environment, fostering dialogue on social justice and human rights and supporting the strategic goals of the university.

Contact Us

James B. and Rosalyn L. Pick
Museum of Anthropology
Cole Hall 114


10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The museum is closed during university holidays and the summer.

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