After putting the finishing touches on new installations, the MU Museum of Anthropology will reopen to the public Saturday.

The museum focuses on the ethnography of North America, with specific exhibits on Missouri archaeology and human behavior around the world. The aim is to broaden the cultural understanding of people, said Amanda Harrison, assistant curator of the exhibition.

The museum has been closed for three years after being moved out of Swallow Hall on Francis Quadrangle. Harrison said she’s excited for the museum to be more visible to not only the university, but also the Columbia community.

“We’re more of a science museum, as opposed to the Museum of Art and Archaeology, which is an art museum,” she said.

The two sister institutions are located next to each other in the second floor of a building at Mizzou North at 115 Business Loop 70 West.

The representatives of the Osage Nation were invited to bless the space last week. According to Native American tradition, blessing is necessary for any space where there are sacred and important materials, Harrison said.

In the middle of the exhibition room is an art piece, “Spring Maiden,” that was gifted by the MU Department of Anthropology to celebrate the museum’s opening.

“She was a storyteller,” Harrison said. “We’re coming here. We’re telling the stories of cultures and people. She was a beautiful way to represent what our museum is all about.”

One part of the opening exhibition is the Kachinas collection. Kachinas were originally made as sacred dolls to teach children, especially girls, about the spirit world and nature gods. They still hold a great deal of significance to the Hopi people, Harrison said.

“It’s not only looking into the importance of the art form, but looking into the importance of the cultural expression that they’re sharing with us,” she said.

The Kachinas are grouped based on styles such as clowns, women, plants and animals. As westward expansion occurred in the U.S., Kachinas became more than a spiritual art form. Some are contemporary, such as one blowing a bubble with gum, one choking a chicken and one in an “I love New York” T-shirt.

The collection is a donation from a man who spent his entire life collecting them, Harrison said.

“This is the first time any of this has been on exhibit because they were in his home,” she said.

The jaguar gorget, a piece of armor for the throat, is one of the museum’s more unique pieces. To have a jaguar on a Missouri artifact is unusual because the animal is not native here, Harrison said, and the exhibited gorget is the only one with a jaguar that has been found in Missouri.

The new display also includes parts of the Grayson Archery Collection, the most complete collection of its kind anywhere in the world. It documents the historical cultures of six continents through archery.

The museum’s permanent collection covers a very long time period of Missouri archaeology. There are items from the Paleoindian era that show the earliest evidence of humans in Missouri.

The North American Ethnographic collection is divided into five different regions. The majority of items are from around 1800 to the 20th century, with the exception of a case of prehistoric southwest pottery.

“What’s significant about this is looking at an ethnographic across sections of North American cultures,” which allows a cultural comparison, Harrison said.

The museum also has the second oldest shoes in the world in the collection, which were found here in Missouri.

“In our museum collection down there, we have over 35,000 objects,” she said. “What’s on exhibit here is only 1 percent of what we actually have. It’s a very, very small sampling.”

Some of the museum’s items have been in its collection for 100 years, Harrison said.

“It’s important to me that the community has access to these collections,” Harrison said. “It’s very satisfying to know that the public is once again being able to come and see these.”

Supervising editor is Taylor Blatchford: news@columbiamissourian.com, 882-7884.

  • Fall 2018 health and public safety reporter. I am a senior studying investigative journalism. Reach me at zlff6@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 825-1996.

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