The museum is home to one of the largest Alaskan and Arctic collections in the lower 48. From ancient Aleutian Islands artifacts to 20th century Inupiaq basketry, these collections represent an invaluable cultural record of a region undergoing rapid ecological and social change.
At the heart of the museum’s Alaskan and Arctic Collections are more than 4,700 artifacts from Aleutian Islands archaeological sites, recovered by William Laughlin and his students during the late 1940s and early 1950s. In addition to these archaeological collections, Laughlin acquired two Aleut kayaks—probably the last of their kind made by Aleutian Native people in the traditional manner.
During his tenure as UO anthropology professor and the museum’s first director, Luther Cressman paved the way for decades of work in Southwest Alaska. The lion’s share, conducted by the museum’s director emeritus Don Dumond and his students, began in 1960 and continued into the 2000s. Much of the material from these investigations comes from public lands and belongs to the government agencies for whom we provide permanent care and management of cultural resources.
In addition to archaeological artifacts, the museum houses an extensive collection of Arctic ethnographic items entrusted to us by private donors. These objects range from mukluks and masks to ivory carvings and baleen baskets. In its capacity as the state’s official repository for anthropological materials, the museum in 2014 adopted the Paul H. Jensen Arctic Collection from Western Oregon University, where it had been housed since 1985. Established by Western Oregon University professor Paul Jensen, the collection emphasizes 20th century cultural materials and includes more than 5,000 objects that span all eight Arctic countries.