Recent Acquisitions

Cast bronze smoking pipe, Cameroon.

Richard Bauman Collection of Smoking Pipes from Cameroon

While the Mathers Museum benefits greatly from object donors who live all around the country, at times local and IU community members provide significant—and  beautiful—collections as well. Such is the case with the recent gift of an array of smoking pipes from Cameroon, in West Africa. Richard Bauman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Folklore, of Anthropology, and of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, collected pipes of many different styles and materials. The photographs here illustrate a small number of the 35 pipes the museum received from Professor Bauman.

For contextual information about these pipes and the functions they serve in the cultures that created them, we are providing an essay researched and written by Ethan Miller who, as an Indiana University senior, completed an Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation Internship at the museum in Summer 2017: Read Ethan's essay.

Cast bronze smoking pipe featuring human face and two chameleons.
Carved wood smoking pipe in shape of stylized figure with large horns.
Pottery smoking pipe featuring bulbous cheeks and a stylized hat.

Dee Birnbaum Collection

Dr. Dee Birnbaum is an ardent collector of items of dress and adornment from North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. She has built an outstanding collection over more than forty years, purchasing items for their beauty and, equally important, for the cultural knowledge they both embody and represent. Dr. Birnbaum’s intention in creating her collection was always to donate the materials to a museum of anthropology and culture on a university campus, also known for strong research work in the parts of the world it represents.

Viki Graber Basket Collection

The Mathers Museum recently obtained this collection of 30 objects created by Indiana basket maker Viki Graber. These willow baskets, spectacular in their own right, are also an acquisition that helps demonstrate a shift in the museum’s collections development strategy. Its acquisition reflects vital changes to the museum’s personnel and outlook since 2013 when Jason Baird Jackson took on the position of Director. With academic homes in Folklore as well as Anthropology, Director Jackson has brought a renewed interest in folk arts and crafts and a focus on individual artists and craftspeople to the museum and to the collection. This shift in emphasis was greatly strengthened when the Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI) program and its Director, Jon Kay, joined with the work of the museum in 2015.

TAI Director Kay, who also serves as the museum’s Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, commissioned the items from Ms. Graber and worked with her to ensure that the collection represented her repertoire. The baskets range from forms developed in Europe and brought to the US by Mennonite craftspeople to contemporary expressions of Ms. Graber’s journey as a basket maker. There is a unity to these works, however, with the more traditional forms enlivened by Viki’s sense of structure and color.


Sidney and Sharon Mishkin Collection

A very recent (and ongoing) acquisition comes to the museum from world travelers Sidney and Sharon Mishkin. This remarkable couple seeks out and obtains unusual objects when they travel, getting as close to the artifacts’ sources as logistics allow. A tattoo catalog from Myanmar (Burma), a Buddhist incense burner from China, a headscarf from the Flower Hmong in Vietnam, a Miao child’s hat from China, a model water puppet from Vietnam in the shape of a rooster. Each of these items caught the discerning eyes of the Mishkins. Altogether these objects reflect the sense of place of the various communities visited as well as the sense of wonderment of their discovery.

For a more detailed account of the collection received to date, here is an assessment written by Indiana University senior Holly Bean, an Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation Intern in Fall 2017: Read Holly's Curatorial Assessment

Tattoo catalog, Burma.
Headscarf,  Hmong People, Vietnam.
Child’s hat, Miao People, China.
Incense burner, China.
Water puppet model, Vietnam.
Squirrel print, Eleanor Kanawase, Canada.

Elinor and Vincent Ostrom Collection

Elinor and Vincent Ostrom came to Indiana University in 1964 as faculty in the Department of Political Science, and in 1973, they founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Almost every summer from 1967 to 2008 they drove to Manitoulin Island, Canada, where they began building their collection of art and artifacts from around the world, with interests in traditional and contemporary work by North American Indians, and a special focus on Ojibwe art. The Ostroms collected boxes, baskets, pottery, prints, and paintings that filled their Bloomington home. The Ostroms left their collections to Indiana University following their deaths in 2012, a gift reflecting their desire to share the collection. In a December 1964 letter to The Log Cabin Antiques, Vincent wrote: “we may someday be able to make some useful additions to a university, provincial or state museum in addition to the satisfaction that we are able to gain from collecting the baskets ourselves.”

Birch bark box, Ojibwe People, Canada.
Basket, Canada.
Birch bark box, Ojibwe People, Canada.