Past Exhibits

Hateful Things

From Aunt Jemima advertisements to the board game Ghettopoly, American popular culture is replete with racist images. The traveling exhibition Hateful Things – created and circulated by the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University – represents nearly 150 years of anti-Black/racist material culture and imagery. The exhibition contains 39 items from the late 19th century to the present, embodying the terrible effects of the Jim Crow legacy.

In addition to items from popular and commercial culture, the exhibit also contains images of violence against African Americans as well as the Civil Rights struggle for racial equality. This powerful exhibit lifts objects from their original purposes to serve as reminders of America's racist past and challenges present-day images of racial stereotyping with the aim of stimulating the scholarly examination of historical and contemporary expressions of racism, as well as promoting racial understanding and healing.

Displayed Feb. 1, 2021 - Apr. 9, 2021

Swept Under the Rug

Swept Under the Rug aims to shed light on the widespread impact of sexual violence on survivors in our local community and will create space for conversations. The exhibit is divided into three installations – "What Were You Wearing" features clothing that is representative of outfits survivors were wearing when they were assaulted; "Touched" addresses the aftermath of these attacks through illustration on mannequins of embodied memories of non-consensual contact; "When a Child Speaks" shares the experiences of young survivors.

This exhibition was curated by staff members at Safe Passage with artistic content developed and created by sexual assault survivors of all ages.

Displayed Sept. 29 - Dec. 4, 2020

Traditional Art of the Bedouin

Drawn from the Nance Collection—the largest collection of its kind outside the Middle East—Traditional Arts of the Bedouin introduces visitors to rich material culture from Saudi Arabia and nearby Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Syria, and Yemen. The exhibition includes approximately fifty-three artworks and artifacts that bridge the gap between aesthetic and utilitarian purposes, as well as recognize the unique tenacity of Bedouin traditions. Traditional Arts of the Bedouin is a traveling exhibition organized by the Nance Collection, McClure Archives and the University Museum at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO, and a program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts

Displayed Aug. 26, 2019 – April 17, 2020

For the Love of Humans: A History of Dogs

For the Love of Humans: A History of Dogs will take you on a journey through the timeless relationship between dogs and humans. From their work in law enforcement and rescue to therapy and companionship, For the Love of Humans: A History of Dogs examines how the unique bond between humans and dogs has deepened over time. The exhibition explores the early domestication of dogs, drawing on the latest archaeological discoveries and provides information on becoming an activist for dogs by volunteering and donating to local shelters, living cruelty-free, and much more. Visitors will also discover how NIU became the Huskies and learn about the history of NIU's mascots by viewing photographs, memorabilia, costumes, and different depictions of Huskies across campus.

Displayed Jan. 14 - May 10, 2019

Archeology on Ice

Courtesy of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico.

Archaeology on Ice tells the story of the climate change in the Arctic through a unique collaboration between scientists, the Ahtna Heritage Foundation and tribal members. Ancient ice is melting throughout the world, and in the Arctic, annual average temperature has increased at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the earth. Artifacts that have been frozen in ice for thousands of years are emerging. A team of archeologists and researchers investigated ice patches in Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The exceptional preservation of the organic tools (wood, antler, bone, and leather) found at ice patches has enabled people to make direct links between today and the past. Many local people participated in the research to locate and preserve these rare artifacts. They have shared their knowledge about their customary and traditional use of the land and its resources. Artifacts on display include arrows, spear points, and objects from the Pick Museum's Arctic collection.

Displayed Aug. 20 - Nov. 3, 2018

Quilts and Human Rights

Organized by the Michigan State University Museum, "Quilts and Human Rights" included over 40 quilts centered around themes of social justice honoring champions of human rights, documenting quiltmaking as a means of coping with oppression, and examining how quilts raise awareness of global social issues. The Pick Museum staff expanded the exhibit by adding fifteen more quilts made between 2008 and today highlighting the last decade's booming modern quilting movement.
This exhibition was generously supported by Cordogan Clark & Associates Inc., Michigan State University Museum, and NIU's Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality.

Displayed Sept. 5, 2017 - May 11, 2018

Push Factors: Perspectives on Guatemalan Migration

Curated by Curators Without Borders, this exhibition tells the stories behind a series of powerful photographs depicting life in Guatemala following the country's 36-year Civil War, and highlights how resource exploitation, genocide, poverty, drought, femicide, gangs, corruption and racism in Guatemala led to mass migration in the 21st century. The exhibit also incorporates contemporary Guatemalan textiles, rich scenes of Maya spirituality and ritual preparation for migration, and documentary video of K'iche Maya weavers as they contend with global markets. Materials recovered from archaeological work in the Sonoran Desert are also shown to personalize the migration experience. Through imagery and discussions on the causes of migration, Push Factors asks visitors to rethink migration and encourages tolerance of both documented and undocumented migrants.

Displayed Jan. 28, 2017 - May 13, 2017

Storytelling: Hmong American Voices

This collaborative exhibit, co-curated with a 20 member Hmong Community Advisory Council, explores what it means to be Hmong American. Through objects, audio recordings and personal stories of Hmong Americans, this exhibit immerses visitors in the material culture and social issues of Hmong American communities. Included in the exhibition are memories and experiences of particular Hmong families who came to DeKalb in the 1970s and later moved to rejoin family members in other parts of the Midwest.

Displayed April 9, 2016 - Dec. 6, 2016

Curated by DeKalb: 50 Years of the Anthropology Museum at NIU

This exhibit is a community co-curated exhibition that highlights the depth, richness and contemporary importance of the Museum and NIU. All of the artifacts on display in Curated by DeKalb were selected by NIU campus or community members, creating a collaborative exhibit that brings together NIU students, faculty, staff, local business owners and DeKalb residents. Curated by DeKalb is about the people in our community, the cultural objects that inspire them and the connections that the Anthropology Museum can inspire. Through the eyes of friends and colleagues, visitors will be inspired by the breadth of human achievement and innovation that are represented right in DeKalb's own Anthropology Museum.

Winner: 2015 Illinois Association of Museums Award of Excellence

Fragments: Haiti Four Years after the Earthquake

Based on the activist anthropology of Professor Mark Schuller, this powerful exhibit explores the lives and living conditions of Haitians today. The NIU Anthropology Museum developed a program series to coincide with this exhibit entitled, Reconstructing Haiti: Current Conditions, Lessons Learned and the Future. The program series hosted speakers, films and performances each month both on NIU's main campus and in Chicago. Podcasts from these events are available below.

Winner of the 2014 Illinois Association of Museum Superior Achievement Award

Displayed Jan. 16, 2014 - July 1, 2014

The Children of Native America: A Traveling Exhibit from the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures

This exhibit focused on the children, culture and traditions that hold value in the Native American community. The Children of Native American exhibit unfolded the many ways in which the Native American people teach the children their important roles of society through toys, games and play.

Displayed July 1, 2013 - July 27, 2014

Trowels and Fair Trade: Revealing the Underground Railroad and Contemporary Slavery

What evidence did runaway slaves leave behind at an Underground Railroad station? What tools help an archaeologist uncover and identify that evidence? Is slavery itself an historic artifact? This exhibit highlights the archaeological study of the Underground Railroad and the injustices of both historic and contemporary slavery.

Winner of the 2013 Illinois Association of Museum Superior Achievement Award

Displayed June 8, 2013 - Oct. 12, 2013

Fast Food Nation

An exhibit highlighting archaeological evidence for ancient "fast food" strategies provided by food remains and stone tools used by ancient peoples in food production, preparation and consumption.

Curated by former Graduate Students, Ashlee Craig and Kweku Williams
Holmes Student Center Main Floor

Displayed Feb. 2013 - Aug. 2013

Beyond Machu Picchu: Culture and Identity in the Andes

Beyond Machu Picchu explores the material record of cultural identity in the Andes by contrasting objects from ancient, pre-European times with objects from today and the recent past. This exhibition explores commonalities in that material record to demonstrate the shared cultural identity that has persevered in the Andes. By studying how the past is present in the Andes, this exhibition challenges visitors to consider their own cultural identity and how it is represented in the material record.

Displayed Jan. 31, 2013 - June 29, 2013

Rarely Seen Southeast Asia: Art, Artifact, Ephemera

Drawn from the museum's collection and private sources, the exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) contains rarely seen sculptures, ceramics, textiles, rattan weavings, wood carvings, leather carvings, silver repousse work, mother-of-pearl inlay and paper ephemera that reflect the culture of indigenous peoples and various ethnic groups now under pressure from globalization in Southeast Asia.

Displayed Oct. 11, 2012 - May 15, 2013

Water...for Life

Anthropologists have long studied how cultures adapt to their environments. This approach, known as cultural ecology, is employed in this exhibit to demonstrate the wide cultural variability in adapting to common biological and cultural concerns relating to water. Presented in four sections, this exhibition focuses on Water for Thirst, Water for Hunger, Water for Transport and Water for Ceremony.

Curated by Sara L. Pfannkuche

Displayed Aug. 8, 2012 - Dec.15, 2012

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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