Artists Find Inspiration in MOA Collections

The Museum of Anthropology’s collections of nearly 30,000 objects provide an outstanding resource for people, both in the Wake Forest community and the general public, interested in investigating any number of cultures through ethnographic and archaeological artifacts. Research in the collections has been increasing recently with a 2016 anthropology honors thesis about one of our Yu’pik belts and a number of recent exhibits featuring Wake Forest student research on individual objects. The MOA collections, however, can also serve as inspiration for artists in their own work and in the revival of traditional crafts.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

A WFU Art student poses with her drawings and the mask that inspired them.

One such project came from a collaboration with Leigh Ann Hallberg, a faculty member in the Wake Forest University Department of Art. This past fall, students in Hallberg’s Intermediate and Advanced Drawing classes used objects from the Museum’s collections as inspiration for their works of art. The students selected objects including a Japanese kimono, a Tibetan horse bridle, an African rat trap, and a mask from Papua New Guinea as models for their charcoal drawings. The art was later displayed at Wake Forest’s START Gallery in Reynolda Village, showcasing this special partnership.

The MOA staff has also worked with metalsmith William Rogers, who specializes in reproducing historic hammered copper.  As part of an effort to revive metalworking among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Rogers collaborated with the Cherokee Historical Society on a project to add metalworking to the demonstration offerings of the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living history museum. The site is a re-creation of a typical village in the 1750s, with members of the Eastern Band as interpreters demonstrating a variety of traditional activities and crafts.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection. BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

TOP: A copper bell from the MOA collection.
BOTTOM: A new Cherokee copper piece with similar bells.

Rogers first focused on research to determine what types of metalwork were done by Cherokee people.  It was during this phase that he visited the Museum of Anthropology to examine NC Native American copper artifacts in our collection. Rogers also visited several other museums and together these prehistoric and historic copper pieces provided the inspiration for Cherokee designs that are being taught to the demonstrators, reproduced, and sold in the Village gift shop.  Thanks to the opportunity to study MOA’s artifacts, Rogers’ project ensured that the revival of this traditional Cherokee craft is authentic and produces interesting and beautiful pieces. Rogers will present a workshop teaching these methods of creating copper designs at the Museum of Anthropology on October 9, 2017.


The Museum is proud to be able to offer these opportunities to inspire artists and provide examples of authentic artifacts. At any given time only approximately one percent of the Museum’s entire collection is on exhibit. So, for those interested in exploring it in depth, the collection is showcased in the MOA’s comprehensive online database, providing an easily accessible introduction point. The Museum is also in the process of hiring a collections manager, which will make the collections even more accessible to researchers, artists, and any other interested parties.


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