University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History to Acquire Arctic Collection

EUGENE, Oregon–(ENEWSPF)–September 18, 2013 — The University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) will be the new home to a major collection of Arctic artifacts, according to an agreement between the University of Oregon and Western Oregon University (WOU), and thanks to support from the 2013 Oregon Legislature. 

Jensen Arctic Museum collection, C801 ivory dance masksThe collection of more than 5,000 objects comes to the UO museum from the Jensen Arctic Museum at WOU, where it has been housed since 1985. At the heart of the collection are rare Alaskan artifacts donated by the museum’s founder Paul Jensen, who died in September 1994. Jensen Museum curator Roben Itchoak said that the collection has since been supplemented by multiple donors, making it one of the largest assemblages of Arctic artifacts in the United States. 

WOU made the difficult decision to cease operation of the Jensen Museum this year due to funding challenges. Options for closing the museum and finding a home for its artifacts had been studied for four years.  As Oregon’s repository for state-owned anthropological collections, the UO museum was asked to house the Jensen Collection to keep it intact and preserve it as a public resource.

“We are grateful to the Oregon Legislature for providing the means to keep this remarkable collection intact, and pleased that the University of Oregon is able to provide an appropriate context for such an important piece of our collective history,” said UO President Michael Gottfredson. 

“I am delighted that the Jensen Collection will remain in Oregon for Oregonians, and that the UO has agreed to accept the artifacts in keeping with the mission of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History,” said Mark Weiss, WOU president.  Jensen Arctic Museum ivory doll with traditional St. Lawrence Island clothing

During the 2013 Oregon Legislature, State Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene) helped to secure $990,000 in Article XI Q-bonds for collections storage equipment, in recognition of the UO museum’s statewide mission to preserve significant collections.  The funds will facilitate accessioning and appropriately housing the Jensen Collection as it moves from one university to the other. Additional support will be provided by the UO President’s Office.

“This legacy investment is in keeping with the Oregon Legislature’s decision in 1935 to make the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History the official repository for the state’s cultural materials,” said Nathanson, co-vice chair of the legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee. 

The Jensen Collection represents a substantial addition to the MNCH’s existing Arctic heritage materials.  

“The collection provides an extraordinarily valuable historical record of unique northern societies and the ecosystems they inhabited,” said MNCH Executive Director Jon Erlandson.  “I’m sorry to see the Jensen Museum close, but it will be an honor to house this important collection here in Eugene, and to ensure that these artifacts are available for future research and educational and exhibition purposes.”

About the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

The UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History is Oregon’s primary repository of anthropological and paleontological collections.  Its mission is to protect significant collections, enhance knowledge, and encourage stewardship of human and natural history through research, preservation, and education. The museum is located at 1680 E. 15th Ave., near Hayward Field. For more information call 541-346-3024.


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