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Native American museum opening in Bentonville

Bentonville, Arkansas (AP) 7-08

The Museum of Native American Artifacts opened in its new location July 10, a space that founder David Bogle hopes will lift the museum from being the best-kept secret in town.

The 5,000-square-foot museum on Southwest O Street (Arkansas 72) west of downtown Bentonville has four times the exhibit space of the converted house that the museum used when it first opened last year.

The exhibits feature mainly artifacts that Bogle owns, but the museum will also display 47 items from the University of Arkansas Museum, which closed in 2003.

“This is a spectacular collection,” said Bob Winkelman, who worked at the university museum. “We’re covering 14,000 years of Native American history, and there are pieces you’re going to see here that can’t be found anywhere else.”

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and there is no admission charge.

Bogle, 55, who is of Cherokee descent and runs a lawn and garden supply business, began to build his collection when he bought an arrowhead collection six years ago from his childhood scoutmaster, the late John Fryer.

“John was always hunting fields and streams for arrowheads,” Bogle said. “He’d built an incredible collection. He really was a special person in my life. Ever since I bought his collection, I’ve been infatuated. I spend about 40 hours a week online, and I travel the country looking for the best Native American artifacts and collections out there.”

Bogle said he wants to give museum visitors a deeper sense of how Native Americans lived.

“So many people have this expectation of what the American Indian looked like – and it’s normally the image we see on television. People think of the peace pipes, moccasins and tomahawks, which is fabulous, but there’s so much more. What this museum does is provide a clearer understanding of what it was like before the tribes we all talk about today, when they learned how to grow crops. We’re going all the way back to the mastodon.”

Nine head pots, among the most rare of pottery that has been recovered, are among the pieces on display.

Museum curator Matt Rowe said the head pots, vessels about 6 inches high in the shape of a head or body, represent the peak of Mississippian Indians’ creativity, imagination and artistry. There are only 131 known head pots in the world, found almost exclusively in northeast Arkansas, and “there’s never been this many on display in one area at one time,” Rowe said.

Bogle owns five of the nine head pots. The museum will also have pieces from other private collections.

“At first, I started accumulating,” Bogle said. “My collection grew extremely fast. But with any museum, space becomes a limitation. So now I spend my days searching for the most-coveted, rarest pieces. I’m looking for the best pieces in the best collections anywhere in the world.

“It’s a different animal convincing someone who’s holding a spectacular collection to sell or loan out their most prized artifact. But when I sit down with them and explain this piece is going to a museum and will be on display forever, they start to give it some thought.”

Some of the items from the university include 19th century baskets, a headdress, a 1876 ledger painting depicting the battle of Little Big Horn and southwest Mimbres Indian vessels more than 1,500 years old.

“(Bogle’s) trying to make the objects accessible to the public, and he’s using them in an educational way. That’s what a museum is all about,” said Mary Suter, the University of Arkansas’ curator of museum collections.

Museum board member Monte Boulanger said the location in Bentonville puts the facility near the 36 American Indian nations of Oklahoma. Boulanger traces his ancestry eight generations to Chief Pawhuska of the Osage Indians. The Osage at one time occupied a vast area from St. Louis, Mo., to Little Rock, and from Wichita, Kan., to Oklahoma City.

“This museum is significant for this area. There were whole civilizations in North America that people don’t know about, before it was settled by the Europeans,” Boulanger said.

On the Net:

Museum of Native American Artifacts: http://museumofnativeamericanartifacts.org/index.html

 

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