A Global Gallery A ceremonial axe from Zaire, a witch dance mask from Indonesia and an intricately woven red basket from Saudi Arabia: all of these rare items carry stories from another century. They are portals to the past brimming with the rich history of the people who crafted them. And though they come from different times and different civilizations, these artifacts have one thing in common: they can all be found in the UNCW Museum of World Cultures. Housed in Randall Library, the museum was founded in 1981 by the late Gerald H. Shinn, professor emeritus of philosophy and religion, in an effort to show students how previous civilizations from around the world influence present-day lives and societies. Since its inception, the museum has acquired approximately 2,000 artifacts. An extensive website outlines the museum’s history and includes an in-depth virtual tour of the artifacts broken down by country and artifact type (http://library.uncw.edu/museum). “The museum is an abundant intellectual and physical resource with tremendous potential,” said Jerry Parnell, coordinator of library special collections. “Other university anthropology museums provide a cohort from which we can derive best practices.”
One of these cohort institutions is the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology. The museums continuously loan one another artifacts for specific exhibits. These kinds of partnerships lend to the Museum of World Cultures’ goal of promoting anthropological enrichment for the academic community. The museum’s staff has invested in new display cases to bring the collection out of the museum and into the workspace of UNCW students. Parnell and Sarah Watstein, university librarian, want to see the museum continue to grow, but they know it’s going to take something more than just their dedication to education. “University and donor support are key to the museum’s future,” Parnell said. “Resources will position the library to hire dedicated staff to support the collection and perform necessary tasks like artifact research, display preparation, collection promotion, artifact preservation and outreach to the university community. We look forward to the museum being more public-friendly and offering a range of public programs, and we would like to involve students more in research and administration. They are our lifeblood!” – C.T.