Michigan State University masthead

MSU Museum Anthropology Division

Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections

The Division of Anthropology maintains extensive archaeological and ethnographic research and teaching collections at the Consortium for Archaeological Research at McDonel Hall, and in the Cultural Collections Research and Education Center in the Central Services Building.

The archaeological and ethnographic teaching collections are regularly utilized by faculty across the MSU campus as a vehicle through which to familiarize students with subject matter through direct, hands on, contact with cultural objects of varying age from North America and around the world.  The ethnographic teaching collections have been built through systematic and judicious acquisitions from donors, with the goal of broad representation of the material culture of major cultural groups worldwide.  The core of the archaeological teaching collection is a large group of objects donated to the MSU Museum by the Boudeman Estate in the 1950s, and representing an array of past cultural objects from around the globe. The Boudeman Collection has been supplemented by additional donations as well as the purchase of replica artifacts for classroom use.

Research Collections

The extensive Division of Anthropology research collections are curated and housed at the Consortium for Archaeological Research and at the Central Services Building. These collections are regularly employed for research by MSU faculty and visiting scholars, as well as by graduate students involved in thesis and dissertation research.
The archaeological collections are focused on Michigan and the Great Lakes. Several regions of Michigan are well represented in the MSU Museum collections by both survey and intensive excavation over the past fifty or more years of work by Museum curators, supplemented by the judicious acceptance of well documented private collections. Regional collection strengths include Traverse Bay and northwestern lower Michigan, the Pere Marquette River, upper Grand River, and Saginaw River basins. There are significant excavated site collections from northern lower Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, the Saginaw River, and the MSU campus.  The research collections have been greatly enhanced by addition of the extensive Butterfield/Schmidt Collection, and the Great Lakes Gas Transmission Pipeline Project collections, both from the Saginaw River drainage of Michigan.
The ethnographic research collections have at their core a series of well documented objects from specific cultural groups and collected by knowledgeable researchers as part of field based research projects. Among the highlights of these research collections are the Robbins Turkana and San collections, the Blackburn Okiek collection, the Ellison Ethiopian collection, and the McCann Navajo saddle blanket and basket collection.  The ethnographic research collections have clear strengths in African societies. 
Enhanced collections curation is an ongoing goal of the Division of Anthropology. Primary records have been reorganized, archivally stored, and housed in fireproof cabinets. Collection-specific activity has been funded by organizations such as the Strosacker Foundation and the Great Lakes Gas Transmission Pipeline Company. The division has received several major Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grants to completely rehouse the archaeological collections. Curator O’Gorman has also completed the incorporation of decades of research materials from the Marquette Mission site in St. Ignace into a GIS database for comprehensive synthetic analysis, curation, and consultation under NAGPRA.

Research and Scholarship

Through the activities of Curatorial Staff, Adjunct Faculty, Research Associates, and students engaged in collections based research the Division of Anthropology maintains a high scholarly profile at the regional, national and international level. Division of Anthropology curators undertake regular fieldwork across Michigan and the Great Lakes, with funding from competitive granting agencies and contracts from public and private agencies. Ongoing current research projects focus on the coastal zone of Lake Michigan including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, on the MSU campus, sustained work in the Saginaw River drainage of Michigan, and at the Marquette Mission Site in St. Ignace augment more than half a century of research dedicated to understanding the indigenous and Euro-American presence in the Great Lakes region since the retreat of the last glaciers. Division curators and adjuncts routinely collaborate with researchers in other disciplines from the social, natural, and physical sciences and the humanities, engage in forensic research, and are involved in the formulation of legislation and public policy. Numerous dissertations and theses, as well as publications including books, research monographs, book chapters and refereed journal articles have resulted from work in divisional collections, and many more are in progress.

Outreach, Engagement, and Public Programming

Through the Consortium for Archaeological Research the Division of Anthropology participates in a broad range of activities designed to foster professional collaboration, support avocational interests, and enhance public education. Staff, students, and adjuncts in the Division of Anthropology regularly provide presentations to school groups and public audiences, including the annual Archaeology Day celebration hosted by the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing. The CAR facilities at McDonel Hall are regularly utilized by the Upper Grand Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society (MAS), the state avocational archaeological organization. Divisional curators and collection managers are central figures in professional organizations, and are often called on to provide expert advice to government and private enterprise. Further, curatorial staff and adjuncts provide important direction for public exhibitions, most recently at the Charlevoix Historical Society Museum and in multiple exhibits at the MSU Museum, making important new finds accessible to the larger public.

Programmatic Collaborations

Faculty, staff, and students in the Division of Anthropology are affiliated with a range of programs on and off the Michigan State University campus, as well as at other educational institutions. Curators and adjuncts regularly participate in the American Indian Studies Program (AISP), the Quaternary Landscapes Research Group (QLRG), the Canadian Studies Centre (CSC), the Center for European and Russian Studies (CERS), and other programs across the MSU campus including the Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). Current staff research engages inter-institutional collaborations with the Illinois State Museum, the New York State Museum, the Indiana Geological Survey at Indiana University, and the School of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, UK.