How and why we make collections

One of the questions frequently asked by visitors to the Museum is whether we still collect things.  The answer to this question is absolutely.  The discussion that follows usually includes the story of how and why the Museum has built its collections, from its beginnings after the 1893 World’s Fair to what we are doing today. 


While all of the Museum's scientific departments still acquire specimens, we in the Anthropology Department  have been rethinking the procedures and reasons for  adding to our collections, both now and in the future.


While the acquisition of new collections for the Museum still involves obtaining actual objects, our collecting also involves much more than just this.  It includes talking and listening to the people who made and used the objects being acquired to see if we can develop relationships with them that, at least in some cases, can grow into lasting partnerships between the Museum and people out in the Pacific. 


It is important to create such partnerships because many times what is missing for our old collections is the Pacific Islander’s own perspective on what we exhibit, study, and care for.  Their perspective is essential if the Museum is to be relevant to people today and in the future both here in Chicago and in the Pacific. 


Christopher J. Philipp with drum maker Poeia Haiti

Christopher J. Philipp with drum maker Poeia Haiti of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, discussing Marquesan drums and drumming (© 2008, The Field Museum)