The University Museum, University of Arkansas, will install “Native Arkansas,” an exhibit at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Central Library System (CALS). The exhibit will be installed in the Butler Center’s Concordia Gallery and will open October 11, 2013, and run through March 15, 2014.
NATIVE ARKANSAS: A View of Early Arkansas
“Native Arkansas” takes the visitor on a tour of the state at a time when Euro-Americans began to explore the territory that would become Arkansas. Euro-Americans soon learned that Arkansas had five broad geographic regions: the Mississippi and St. Francis river floodplains and Crowley’s Ridge in the northeast; the Ozarks of the northwest; the Ouachitas of the southwest; the Delta of the southeast; and, through the middle of the state, the Arkansas River Valley. Explorers and naturalists who described their travels through early Arkansas provide a record of the plants, animals, and geology of each region. They also saw evidence of the peoples who occupied the state during the prehistoric period, some of whom were ancestral to the numerous native communities that populated Arkansas at the time of Euro-American exploration.
In “Native Arkansas,” visitors will figuratively enter the state at Arkansas Post, and tour five regions of the state. Visitors will experience early Arkansas through the eyes of some of the first Euro-Americans to write about the state. They will encounter some of the native flora, fauna, and geology of each geographic region. On exhibit will be examples of Mississippian period artifacts from northeast and southeast Arkansas, bluff shelter artifacts from northwest Arkansas, and Caddo artifacts from southwest Arkansas. Representing the Arkansas River Valley, the exhibit provides an in-depth look at the Native American community of Carden Bottoms, with a glimpse of how Native Arkansans understood the natural environment.
Extensive collections totaling some seven million objects in the fields of archeology, ethnography, geology, history, and zoology are developed and maintained by the staff. The collections are generally available for exhibition, research, education, and loan.
University faculty may request loans of specimens for their classes, or arrange to bring their classes to the UAFC for a visit. Specimens and their associated documentation are available for comparative and research purposes by university faculty, qualified students, and visiting scholars.
The University Collections Facility fulfills its public service and outreach mission with loans to other institutions for exhibits. In addition, staff members provide consultation services to museums, interpretive tours for visiting groups, public information services, and talks in their area of expertise.
The archeological collections are the largest and most significant collection of Arkansas archeological material anywhere. Particularly noteworthy are materials from Ozark bluff shelters and Mississippian Period whole vessels. The special dry microclimates of shelters located along the river bluff lines preserved many objects from the material culture of the mountains native inhabitants. Of special significance are baskets, sieves, carriers, storage bags, sandals, and made of plant fibers, and moccasins, bags and rawhide strips made of animal hides. The Museum also preserves many plant food remains such as corn, beans, and squash.
With over 7,000 catalogued Native American whole pottery vessels, the Collection Facility houses the largest single collection of late prehistoric and protohistoric period whole pottery vessels from Arkansas. These vessels represent late Mississippian Period cultures of the Mississippi and Arkansas River Valleys and Caddoan culture of the Red and Ouachita River regions. The collection includes a wide range of vessel shapes, decorations, and effigies. The vessels show the artistry and creativity of the prehistoric potters, and the daily tasks, activities, lifestyles, and worldview of the potters and their contemporaries.
The small but focused ethnology collection consists of over 2,300 contemporary and historic objects representing the material cultures of several non-European cultures. Especially represented by the collection are utilitarian objects that illustrate the lifeways of central African tribal peoples, ceremonial masks from Mexico, ceremonial and decorative objects from the South Pacific islands, and decorative objects made by the Plains Indians. Smaller collections are representative of China, South Korea, and the Middle East.
The collection also has examples of utilitarian objects that have been removed from their context and now function as art and craft objects. These include Southwestern ceramics, basketry representative of all United States Native American tribal groups, a complete collection of Hopi kachinas, and wood carvings by the Seri people of Mexico.
The geology collection includes numerous fine specimens of fossils and minerals with a particular emphasis on specimens from Arkansas. The Facility holds over 12,000 rock and mineral specimens including the Hugh D. Miser Collection consisting of 5,725 Arkansas and Brazilian quartz crystals. An alumnus of the University of Arkansas, Dr. Miser worked as a staff geologist for the United States Geological Survey. He donated these crystals from his collection in 1954. The Facility also houses 10,500 North American and European invertebrate fossil specimens plus 4,800 North American vertebrate fossil specimens. The premiere vertebrate fossils are a Pleistocene mammoth found northeast of Hazen, Arkansas in 1965 and a 180 million year old fossil crocodile from Germany. In addition, the Facility holds 540 Cretaceous and Tertiary fossil plant specimens from Arkansas and the Gulf Coast.
The History Collection includes approximately 25,000 objects with an emphasis on historic objects from Arkansas. The Facility has strong collections in textiles, Arkansas crafts, glassware and ceramics and military items. The textile collection embraces quilts, coverlets, and linens dating from the middle of the 19th Century. Many of the textiles represent the Ozark traditional crafts of spinning and weaving. The George Gibson basket collection includes every kind of basket made by this nationally-recognized craftsman.
The American pressed glass collection of over 3,000 pieces is one of the largest in the southeastern United States. The collection contains representative samples of common North American glassware in use from the late 1870s to 1915. The ceramics collection includes examples of Niloak, an Arkansas art pottery, as well as fine china and European porcelain figurines.
Military items include University of Arkansas cadet uniforms and accessories, Civil War memorabilia, and uniforms and accessories from World War I and II, including United States Public Health Service and Red Cross uniforms.
The Zoology Division contains approximately 90,000 lots. Most of these are from northwest Arkansas, but representative specimens from throughout the world are included as well. There are approximately 100 whole mounts (mostly birds and mammals), 1250 skeletons (mostly birds and mammals), 60,000 fluid specimens of herps, fish and mammals, and 50,000 invertebrates.
Approximately1,500 study skins from Professor Emeritus of Zoology Dr. J.A. Sealander comprise the core of this collection. Articulated and disarticulated skeletons are also available for study, including 350 coyote skulls donated by Dr. Phil Gipson and 250 bobcat skulls from Steve Fritz. The series of primates is first-rate. A series of black bear skeletons is being accumulated from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Recent acquisitions include a red wolf (skull casts, postcranial skeleton, and whole mount) and a grey wolf (whole mount).
The collection contains 1,678 sets of eggs from 551 species collected by Wheeler, Luther and Tomlinson earlier in the century. There are also nests associated with many of the sets. Approximately 1,000 study skins from Dr. Douglas James (co-author of Arkansas Birds) form the main portion of the collection.
Approximately 4,000 lots of amphibians and reptiles comprise this collection. Most of these have been donated by the Biological Sciences Department field classes.
The fish collection consists of 2,000 lots, mostly from Arkansas but some from Hawaii. Recent cooperation with Dr. James E. Johnson of the US Fish and Wildlife Coop here on campus has resulted in the acquisition of specimens from new locations in the state, including the Buffalo River area.
Most specimens are mollusks from the A. J. Brown Collection, but there are other mollusks collected by Davis, Parmalee, and the EPA. Both Arkansas and cosmopolitan species are represented. Barnacles, isopods, and terrestrial sails collected by Dr. David Causey (UA Professor Emeritus of Biology) are also present.