Collection History

As early as 1885 the University of Missouri began accepting gifts of ethnographic materials. In 1902 these materials were organized into the Museum of Ethnology, under the auspices of the Department of Sociology. From 1932 to 1938 the holdings were known as the Anthropology Collection; the name Museum of Anthropology was formally adopted in 1939.

The scope of the Museum’s collections includes both anthropological and archaeological objects. Our goal is to broaden the understanding of human behavior, past and present. On exhibition are objects from subject areas such as global archery, North American historic and contemporary material cultures, human origins, and archaeological objects from what is present day Missouri. The museum also holds collections of material from South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. 

Since its founding in 1939, the Museum of Anthropology has served the research and teaching needs of the University of Missouri, provided exhibitions and programs for the general public, and served as an archaeological curation facility for the state of Missouri.

The Museum of Anthropology works directly with Tribal Nations to preserve the history of the indigenous peoples whose relationship to this land continues to this day.  Although we undertake the care of the material, we do not own the vast knowledge, history, or story they contain. As we continue to learn from the cultures of our past and present, we encourage dialogue to continue that journey.  Together, our past informs our future. 

North America

Museum Collections - Ethnographic

Museum Collections - Ethnographic

The Museum's ethnographic collection documents historical cultures of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The collection, which numbers thousands of individual items, comprises materials donated by University researchers, students, and alumni, as well as members of the general public in search of a home for their personal collections. Many materials were also generated from Museum-sponsored collecting expeditions.

Approximately half of the Museum's ethnographic collection comprises items representing historic native cultures of North America. The Native American collection includes several thousand items from Arctic, Southwestern, Plains, Northwest Coast, and Eastern Woodlands groups. This includes objects from the Inuit, such as skin garments and bone and ivory tools; Plains beaded and feathered items; and Southwestern pottery, basketry, and kachina dolls.  This is the only part of the ethnographic collection that is on exhibit in the Museum.

Objects from other parts of the world include domestic items and apparel from Central America and Mexico; hunting equipment, tools, weapons and personal items from various areas of Africa and Southeast Asia; Japanese ivory carvings; and Chinese carvings of jade, agate, and other precious stones.  These may be found in the online databases.

Museum Collections - Mississippian vessels

Museum Collections - Mississippian vessels

The Museum's massive archaeological collection results from federally mandated cultural resource management projects and myriad projects conducted by university faculty and students. The Museum has also long functioned as a repository for collections donated by members of the Missouri Archaeological Society, as well as for other personal archaeological collections. The majority of the Museum's archaeological holdings are managed by the American Archaeology Division's Curation office.

The archaeological collections are recognized nationally as being among the most important holdings of prehistoric material in the country. Containing millions of individual items, the archaeological collection is systematic in scope and spans the era of human occupation and entire geographic reach of present day Missouri (from ca. 8000 BC on). Major collections include those generated from excavations in Truman Reservoir in west-central Missouri and in Clarence Cannon Reservoir (Mark Twain Lake) in northeast Missouri. Collections from the seven Bootheel counties adjacent to the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri are also extensive. Materials in the Museum's collections include ceramics, lithics, metal, and faunal and botanical remains from a spectrum of functional site types, site sizes, and dates of occupation. Foremost among those are materials that postdate AD 700 and include remains from the Late Woodland and Mississippian periods. Information accompanying the archaeological collections includes an estimated 600 linear feet of documentary material (e.g., maps, charts, plans, excavation forms, reports, and photographs).

Notable items among the archaeological collections include the Jaguar Gorget, over 300 complete or restorable ceramic vessels, any number of well-made worked stone pieces (including the Lilbourn Mace), silver cones from contact-period sites, copper implements, and ceramic effigies of various kinds of animals.

In addition to the Missouri material, the Museum also holds small collections of archaeological material from other states and regions of the world, teaching collections, and the renowned Eichenberger collection of expert replicas of many of the world's most significant archaeological pieces.

The Museum's historical collection comprises a variety of 19th- and 20th-century Euroamerican materials. Included is an assemblage of American carpentry, household, and agricultural tools from MU's College of Agriculture; a collection of Depression glass; Pamplin clay pipes; horse equipment; gun parts, accessories, and gunsmithing tools; and pottery and other materials.

Foremost among the Museum's Euroamerican materials is the Pattrick Collection. The Pattricks, a Missouri family that settled in Randolph County in 1830, have donated hundreds of late 19th- and early 20th-century materials to the Museum over the past 50 years. The collection includes clothing and household goods, children's toys and games, books, photographs and sheet music, and many other items. This collection of Americana represents a broad slice of cultural history in the heart of America. These materials chronicle not only the day-to-day activities of a specific family but the activities of the country as a whole.

Global Collections

In addition to our North American collections, the museum has ethnographic materials and artifacts from all over the world. One of the largest collections is from Africa with items representing the work of the Masai, Turkana, Falasha, Hausa, Kikuyu, Niam Niam, Somali, and Berber peoples. These include garments, ornaments, musical instruments, basketry, vessels, tools, hunting equipment, weaponry, head rests, and masks. Special collections from Africa include the Sutton Collection - collected in the early 20th century from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Nigeria - and the Ives Collection, with pieces dating from the turn of the 20th century. The Ives Collection contains several magnificent ebonies as well as a variety of other cultural pieces from across the African continent.

Also among our global collections are items from across Asia, South America, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe. The Bussabarger Collection, which focuses on India, includes several time periods of works that reflect the deities, epics, and home life of the Indian people.

The museum's global collections do not have a permanent display space but are occasionally on special exhibit in our rotating exhibit room.

Special Collections

The following are special collections held outside of the general collection.  To search these collection databases visit our Online Database page.

Grayson Archery Collection

The Grayson Archery Collection and Library is the private collection of Dr. Charles E. "Bert" Grasyon.  Dr. Grayson began donating his collection to the University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology in the early 1990s. With over 5,500 pieces covering six continents, the collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

Eichenberger Cast Collection

J. Allen Eichenberger (1905-1988) was a banker from Saverton, Missouri, and a long-time member of the Missouri Archaeological Society. Eichenberger's greatest achievements in archaeology were in the field of artifact casting, producing an estimated 700 copies of many of the world's renowned archaeological finds. His process in duplicating colors was unmatched in the field. Eichenberger performed his casting duties while a research associate for the American Archaeology Division at the University of Missouri, during which time he copied most of the known Paleoindian material from the western United States, examples of most Archaic-period types from the Midwest, numerous catlinite pipes and tablets, several pieces of engraved shell, and a number of specimens from Europe, Africa, and South America. In 1983 the Smithsonian Institution recognized Eichenberger for his achievements, presenting him with a certificate of recognition and receiving in return master copies of 650 of his pieces. Molds and copies of each artifact are housed at the Museum Support Center. Eichenberger casts are not on public display, but are available for research and study. 

More Info

Online Databases

All of our collections are searchable via our online database. Databases, with information on how to search them, can be found on our Online Database page.

Grayson Archery Collection


Museum of Anthropology eExhibits

The museum's eExhibits reach visitors beyond its physical boundaries and provide greater access to collections and related information for researchers, students, and other interested individuals. eExhibits present smaller virtual exhibits of materials from the Museum of Anthropology's extensive holdings, much of which never makes it onto display.  Many of these virtual exhibits are collaborations of museum staff and museum interns, extending both the teaching and research missions of the museum.

Visit the eExhibits