Permanent Collections

Tetela basket, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

African Collections

The museum holds several significant collections of African materials. In all, the collection contains nearly 5,000 pieces representing countries throughout West, East, Central, and North Africa. The strongest collections come from the Tetela of eastern Zaire, obtained by John White in the late 1920s and early 1930s; the Hausa and Yoruba of Nigeria, collected by Arnold Rubin, former professor of Art History at UCLA; the Hausa of Nigeria, collected by renowned art historian Roy Sieber; over 1,200 objects and textiles from Liberia; and a large number of musical instruments collected throughout Africa by pioneering ethnomusicologist, Laura Boulton. Other African collections include materials from Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia.

Puppet, Indonesia.

Asian/Pacific-Oceania Collections

The museum holds several significant collections of Asian materials, totaling nearly 3,000 items. Object functions include daily living, entertainment, and ritual practice. from East Asia, Central Asia, Southern Asia, and Southeast Asia. The Pacific/Oceania collections include materials from Java, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Palau.

Chair, Chester Cornett, USA.

North American Euro American Collections

The museum holds several significant collections of American/Indiana historical material. These include artifacts documenting home textile industries, carpentry, stone working, and materials from a Bedford, Indiana, blacksmith shop, ca. 1930-1960, as well as items of everyday use.

The core of this set of materials is the Stevens-Esarey Collection, perhaps 300 items in all. It was amassed by Salem, Indiana, resident Warder Stevens in the early 1900s; Stevens wished to save traditionally-used tools that he saw disappearing with dramatic lifestyle changes occurring at the time. The collection was obtained by Indiana University in 1914, long before the museum came into existence, through the offices of history professor Logan Esarey. Professor Esarey knew the value of having material objects as teaching aids, and promoted the use of this collection in the teaching of history.

The museum also has several collections of folk art, including many European American works. These include paintings by Emma Schrock, coverlets from the 1800s, and quilts by Midwestern craftswomen of the 1800s and 1900s.

Bowl, Acoma Pueblo, USA.

North American Native American Collections

The museum collections from native North America consist of approximately 2,300 ethnographic objects. Most of the collections represent the early to mid-20th century, although there are some older pieces. One important collection is the Ellison Collection, which consists mainly of Plains Indian materials, including objects and correspondence from Pawnee Nation individuals . Other important collections document Florida Seminole groups, and several of the Southwestern Pueblos and the Navajo. The Greist Collection, made at Point Barrow, Alaska in the 1920s and 1930s, includes—in addition to around 100 ethnographic items—over 3,000 prehistoric artifacts collected from the surface of beaches and tundra around Barrow.

Fantasy figure, Mexico.

Central and South American Collections

The Central and South American collections in the museum consist of approximately 4,700 artifacts. Most of the materials date to the mid-20th century, but some are considerably older. Cultures of Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Surinam, Colombia, and Peru account for most of the ethnographic holdings, although other countries are represented. Topical strengths include traditional costumes, musical instruments, folk paintings, and ritual artifacts. Among the latter are items representing several Afro-Latin American folk religions. In addition to these 20th-century artifacts, the museum has a small collection of Spanish Colonial materials, mostly from Peru. There are also small archaeological collections from Peru (ceramics and textiles) and Central America (ceramics and ground stone).

Plucked lute, Iraq.

Ethnomusicological Collections

The museum's collection of over 2,000 ethnomusicology items is one of the largest such collections in the country, and includes materials from all continents. Two important collections, the Laura Boulton Collection and the Georg Herzog-Hans van Hornbostel Collection, make up its core. Dozens of other acquisitions from the earliest days of the MMWC through to the present add to the range and depth of the collection.

“Song of the Arrows.” 1909.

Photography Collections

The museum has several significant collections of photographic materials. These include over 8,000 images of the Wanamaker Collection of Native American photographs; the 1,000 image Shaw-Starks and Shaw-East Collections of Bloomington, ca. 1910-1935; and the Elizabeth Bridgwaters and John Drake collections—totaling well over 900 images—documenting the African American community in Bloomington, ca. 1890-1990. In addition, there are several historic sets of lantern slides representing scenes from around the world. The artifact collections include several historic/antique cameras and examples of home film and print processing technology.

Mola panel, Cuna Peoples, Panama.

Textile Collections

The textile collections, featuring over 3,000 pieces, contains domestic items such as rugs and bed covers, garments of all kinds including shoes and hats, wrap-around garments, and cloth length samples. This sub-collection also contains examples of the skill and variety in world textile work: Southeast Asian batik and ikat, Andean in-loom embroidery, African resist dying and embroidery, Sea Island Gullah quilts, Central Asian garment construction and embroidery, Middle-Eastern tapestry and carpet-weaving, Seminole patchwork, and Pueblo and Navajo upright and belt loom textiles.