The history collection consists of over 10,000 items including bottles, stoneware jugs, hand tools, telegraph insulators, wartime memorabilia, and many objects related to the Gorgas House Museum and family. The recent acquisition and stewardship of the Warner Transportation Museum’s holdings has expanded the collection further with objects related to the history and development of Tuscaloosa.
Much of the collection is on display in the Gorgas House which is open to the general public on the University campus, with tours available throughout the day. Many of the pieces date back to the reconstruction period and were used by the Gorgas family while they lived there.
Objects that belonged to Eugene Allen Smith, the first director of the Natural History Museum, were donated to the collections by his family. Other memorabilia belonging to early collectors for the museum was also acquired and preserved.
A collection of early industrial equipment, pertaining to coal mining, cotton farming and turpentine distillation comprise a portion of the holdings, along with an immense collection of telephone insulators received as an adjunct. Mid-1800 period costumes, some of which belonged to Amelia Gorgas, have also been preserved. A number of these antique textiles have been used in research by the Department of Human Environmental Services.
The ethnology collections contain cultural artifacts from around the world, with an emphasis on the South Pacific, Meso and South America, Egypt and Native American. Many of the indigenous weapons and ceremonial artifacts were collected when the Museum’s director, Walter B. Jones, was stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. Other contributions came through friends and colleagues of the Department of Anthropology. These collections are rarely accessed or used, though they contain much interesting and exhibit-worthy material.
Objects in the Ancillary Collections support or enhance the display or storage of the University of Alabama Museums’ collections, but do not meet the historical, scientific, or pedagogical criteria necessary to be fully accessioned into one of the other museum collections. They may be used for exhibit props, teaching, outreach programs, or as supplementary research material, such as the cast collection.