About Our Collection
Our permanent collection numbers approximately 10,000 ethnographic objects and 12,000 archaeological artifacts. The Museum specializes in cultures of Southeast Asia, Native America, Oceania, Latin America and Africa. Rooted in a mission to promote deeper appreciation for human diversity, the collection’s greatest strength is in its ability to tell stories about everyday life. From spoons used to cook fish paste in Cambodia, large ritual masks from Papua New Guinea, to Mississippian chunkey stones, every object reveals aspects of individual creativity and cultural tradition, technological innovation and continuity and artistic originality and norms, which serve as windows to human and cultural variation around the globe.
The Southeast Asian Collection is the jewel of the Pick Museum with over 1,600 objects. Building upon the university’s strength in Southeast Asian studies, the Museum’s collection preserves material culture from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, East Timor, Burma and Cambodia. Donor, Richard M. Cooler laid the foundation for the Museum’s rich collection of Southeast Asian textiles through a donation in the 1990s. This growing collection focuses on Indonesian ikats, batiks and supplementary warps and wefts, demonstrating weaving and dying techniques throughout the region. The museum also houses about 100 different Indonesian shadow puppets and a beautiful gilded Buddha altar. In 2012, objects from the Museum’s Thai collection were exhibited for Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, who later donated two stunning Khon masks used in royal theater performance.
Primarily acquired by the museum’s founding director James Gunnerson in the 1960s, the Native American Collection features objects from all geographic regions of the United States and Canada. Focusing on the Southwest and Plains regions, the collection contains objects such as Haida baskets, Ojibwe beadwork, Navajo rugs and blankets and contemporary Puebloan pottery. A favorite with faculty and students alike, this collection has been the foundation of the museum for five decades, inspiring student research papers, online exhibits and explorations of the past and present through Native American material culture.
The Museum’s Oceania Collection is distinct for its oversized objects and its focus on Papua New Guinea. From a five foot long slit drum and massive pig pot, to a life-size cassowary bird mask and human-scale wood statue, the collection showcases examples of monumental artwork from the Sepik River Region. Acquired in the 1970s by museum founder and professor James Gunnerson, the collection has inspired fascination in visitors of all ages who are especially drawn to the museum’s frequently exhibited 8 foot long, 600 pound carved wooden crocodile. Many smaller carvings and objects from daily life enchant visitors with the unique aesthetic of Oceania.
The Museum’s African Collection, including traditional material culture and tourist art, showcases flourishing artistic traditions with a strong focus on wood carvings of West Africa. Charming carved rhinos, elephants, giraffes, birds and other animals unique to the African continent comprise most of the West African carving collection. The Museum also houses carvings related to gender, power and ceremony from throughout Africa. Colorful baskets, beaded figures, masks and vibrant textiles also distinguish the African collection.
The Latin American Collection features objects made in the 20th and 21st centuries from Central and South America. This collection includes Shipibo-Conibo textiles, jewelry and pottery from the Amazon Basin, Paraguayan headdresses, Maya huipiles and textiles, Yaqui object from northern Mexico, hammocks and fishing objects from the Yucatan and Guatemalan religious festival masks. To support initiatives of the University and the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, the Museum plans for significant growth in this collection, particularly in contemporary ethnographic material from Guatemala and Mexico.
The Archaeology Collections include over 13,000 objects from the Americas. The majority of the objects in this collection are unprovenienced lithic materials from the American Bottom. Collected from archaeological sites such as temporary and seasonal camps, the lithic material gives evidence of the technological choices people made and how such implements were used in practice. Examples include stone hoes, axes, spear and arrow points and chunky stones.
The Meyer Collection, donated in the 1990s, established a foundational archaeology collection with 2150 objects from North, Central and South America. Later donations added 200 Midwest and Southwest ceramics. This includes many fine examples of Mississippian and Caddoan complete vessels. Jars, bowls and bottles are represented and attest to the food storage, preparation and serving wares used in the past. They also give evidence to technological choices and practices of individual potters.
A number of ceramic reproductions were purchased from other museum collections to support university instruction of the ancient Americas. Vessels representing PreColumbian cultures such as the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Nazca, Chimu, Moche and Chavin. Casts of some materials recovered from the NIU archaeological project at Copan, Honduras are also in this collection; including three eccentric blades found under the Temple of the Hieroglyphic Stairway.