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The Grayson Collection at the University of Missouri

by Molly Strode
Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly
April-June 2000
17(2):21
with permission of the editor

The Grayson Collection of archery and archery-related items, containing over 5,000 pieces, is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of its kind in the world. Although archery equipment is the focus of the collection, there are also numerous objects and works of art that have archery as the theme and a large library of archery-related books and periodicals. Objects in the collection span thousands of years of time and the entire world. Native American and Asian items are the most well-represented pieces.

This isn't just bows and arrows, however. The Grayson Collection is not only a wonder of technology but a feast for the eyes. Exquisite decorations adorn many objects in the collection. Bows, arrows, and quivers made from wood, leather, horn, ivory, plant fibers, sinew, and bone are decorated with materials such as mother-of-pearl, glass beads, cherry bark, silk, ostrich-shell beads, porcupine quills, and various furs, feathers, and paints. Numerous precious and semi-precious stones (particularly jade and agate), horn, ivory, bone, metal, and wood are the materials for hundreds of thumb rings. Several thumb rings are even inlaid with rubies, turquoise, gold, or emeralds. Japanese scrolls tell the tales of ancient archers and their equipment; a nonreturning boomerang from Australia shows us the Aboriginal hunting weapon; a spectacular Chinese manuscript illustrates proper stance and technique; and a jeweled Persian archer's necklace reminds us of the royal status of some archers.

Modern archery equipment and flight bows are also well represented in the collection. Harry Drake's unlimited footbow, which shot an arrow over 2000 yards, and other record-holding pieces are just some of the highlights.

Books dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries and numerous periodicals make up a reference library that is useful for research on every aspect of archery. A second edition of Toxophilus and a first edition of Smith Discourses are examples of the many prized editions.

Parts of the Grayson Collection are on display at the University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology in Swallow Hall and in a special exhibition area of the Museum Support Center, both on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Much of the collection remains in storage at the Museum Support Center but can be viewed by special appointment with the museum curator. The collection is being entered into a computer database that can be searched by type of object (bow, arrow, scroll, etc.), country of origin, or accession number. In the future, the museum hopes to have a large part of the collection accessible on the internet with photos and information about each piece. The organization of the library materials and archives is not yet complete, but hopefully it will be ready by the end of 1999. Dr. Grayson continues to collect and donate to the museum and has established an endowment to ensure that the collection will be cared for in the future.

To contact the Museum of Anthropology call (573) 882-3764 or write to Museum of Anthropology, 104 Swallow Hall, Columbia, Mo. 65211-1440.

Cheyenne bow case
Cheyenne bow case and quiver made of mountain lion hide, glass beads, and felt. This article is possibly a replica.

Chinese quiver
Chinese quiver on belt: The quiver is fashioned of leather with fittings of gilded iron, and the belt is covered in silk.


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