Virtual Museum Collections Page

  • Woman figuring carrying basket

    Wood figurine of a woman carrying a basket and ladle

  • Museum display

    Come explore the museum dedicated to making artifacts available for viewing.

The Department of Anthropology Virtual Museum is host to digitized collections from around the world. Photographs of the artifacts can be found by following the links.

Rhythm of the Sea Alaska collection

The Rhythm of the Sea Collection represents artistic styles of the prehistoric Eskimos and Aleuts. The geographical area for theses Alaska Native groups is expansive; however, their cultures did not exist in isolation but flowed together because they drew life from the sea. Each artifact in the collection reveals a traditional way of living along the water’s edge. Currently the collection is in the process of being curated and digitally recorded. Artistic style, Eskaleut group, provenience, and cultural significance for each artifact will be identified. Concentration will be given to the harpoon heads due to their distinctive designs and components, which will determine artistic style period. These periods range from Early Okvik (c. 500 BC) to Contemporary (c. AD 1890). Collection photographs and accompanying data were submitted and compiled in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Anthropology in the Graduate School of Western Michigan University by Marcia S. Taylor.

Leonard Kercher Africa collection

Leonard, Dorothea and Ann Kercher

Leonard and Dorothea Kercher with baby Ann.

The Leonard Kercher African collection is named for Professor Leonard Kercher (1901-84). Professor Kercher joined the faculty in 1928 and founded the Sociology Department in 1945. He supported international study, as evidenced by his successful work internationalizing the curriculum at WMU; his sabbatical in Middle East, Europe, and Africa; and his co-directing of numerous foreign seminars abroad for students, including two in East Africa. Kercher was particularly devoted to studies related to Africa, a passion he shared with his wife, Dorothea Kercher (1912-98), and daughter, Ann Carolyn Kercher. Dorothea Kercher, an African literature specialist, joined the WMU faculty in 1966 and served in Waldo Library. Ann Carolyn Kercher (1942-62), had planned to major in African anthropology at the time of her death.

The Kercher legacy is broad and rich. the Leonard C. Kercher Center for Social Research was named in Kercher’s honor, and the Leonard C. and Dorothea Kercher Sociology Endowment Fund was established following Dorothea’s death, largely based on a $1 million dollar bequest she made to support this and other international endeavors at WMU. Additionally, the Kerchers are responsible for three separate collections at WMU:

  • At Ann Kercher’s death, with the support of WMU President at the time, James W. Miller, the Ann Kercher Memorial Collection on Africa was established. This collection at Waldo Library is an extensive and important collection of books and materials on Africa.
  • The Leonard Kercher Collection covering 1923-76 is located in the WMU University Libraries. It is a collection of Kercher’s papers pertaining to the history of WMU, including related to the departments of Sociology and Anthropology.
  • The Leonard Kercher African collection digitized here was donated by Dorothea Kercher before her death and represents items collected during the family’s work in East Africa.

Additional WMU collection of potential interest to Africanist scholars: Western Michigan University’s Frostic School of Art is the repository for the Fred and Isabel Beeler West African Collection. For information on Fred and Isabel Beeler, and their gifts to the university, see the Department of Mathematic's history. Another individual associated with this collection and anthropological research is Africa is Dr. Alan H. Jacobs. Information about him and his research can be found in his obituary.

Text written by Professor Bilinda Straight and updated September 2016.