History Nebraska Blog

Flashback Friday: Our World-Traveling Beaver Effigy Bowl

One of the upcoming Nebraska Unwrapped: Selections from the Collections exhibit artifacts has traveled the world since the last time it was available for the public to view. An Omaha effigy beaver bowl traveled to Kansas City, Paris, and New York as part of The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky exhibit, which was curated by Gaylord Torrence, the Fred and Virginia Merrill Senior Curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

The exhibition brought together 140 Plains Indian works from private and public collections in Europe and North America and included a Winnebago peyote rattle from the Nebraska History Museum’s collections (also pictured here) as well as a 2,000-year-old human effigy stone pipe, eighteenth-century painted robes, and contemporary art pieces by Native artists.

Photos, above and top: Omaha effigy beaver bowl.


The exhibit traveled to the Museé du quai Branly in Paris, France (from April 7 to July 20, 2014), the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City from (September 19, 2014 to January 11, 2015), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (from March 2 to May 17, 2015). The New Yorker called the exhibit at the Met “a wondrous exhibition” and it helped boost the Nelson-Atkins’ attendance to a record level in 2014.

Photos, above and below: Winnebago peyote rattle, which combines Christian symbolism with traditional Ho-Chunk religious practices.


Museum curator Laura Mooney said that the museum frequently loans out items from its collections for state and national exhibits, but loaning items to go overseas is rare. “It’s not even as frequent as every couple of years,” Mooney said. “It’s only been a handful of times.” The beaver bowl had conservation work done at the Ford Conservation Center in Omaha to make sure it was in stable enough condition to travel. Then, exhibit staff built crates for the pieces, and a moving company that specializes in art came to pick them up.

“The lender carries the insurance, and we make sure the other museums have security and environmental controls,” Mooney said. “It can be risky to travel things, and it can make you a little fearful.”

But both the bowl and the rattle returned safely to Nebraska last May after the exhibit closed. When the Nebraska History Museum opens April 1, 2016, Nebraskans can enjoy the beaver effigy bowl just as Paris, New York and Kansas City visitors did last year.


Become a History Nebraska Member Today

Learn More