University Museums


Explore the University Museums through eMuseum! This educational tool was created to support students and faculty in their quest for knowledge by providing access to search the permanent collection. The University Museums' permanent collection at Iowa State University includes more than 30,000 objects with significant collections in the areas of the Decorative Arts, the art of Christian Petersen, Public Art, and Iowa Artists. Up to now only a portion of the museum's permanent collection has been available to view online. The eMuseum tool will allow you to now fully explore the collection, whether currently on view or in storage, by putting all of the permanent collection online.

The University Museums at Iowa State began in 1975 and currently consists of the Anderson Sculpture Garden, Art on Campus Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, Christian Petersen Art Museum, and Farm House Museum. Since 1975 a variety of Museum staff members, interns and volunteers have worked to describe and find background information on the objects in the collection. We continue to update our records, take photographs, and add more detailed descriptions. Our goal through eMuseum is to create vital partnerships within Iowa State University and to enhance higher education by exploring creative interactions in the arts, sciences and technology.

This is an ongoing project so please check back for new research, updated information and photographs, and new acquisitions. The objects listed here represent a majority of the University Museums' collection. While we are committed to make the entire collection accessible via the internet, museum staff recognizes that some information may not be accurate and up-to-date. If you have information relevant to any of the objects you find on our site, we would be grateful to know about it. Please direct any inquiries to

Funding for the University eMuseum project has been generously provided by Carole Horowitz, Kathy and John Howell, IBM, Al and Ann Jennings and a TechStarter Grant through IT Services at Iowa State University.

Christian Petersen Art Collection

Christian Petersen created more than 1,250 known works of art during his lifetime, and nearly 80% of his sketches, drawings and sculptures are included in the Christian Petersen Art Collection at Iowa State. Christian Petersen was sculptor in residence at Iowa State for twenty one years, from 1934 to 1955. Petersen originally came to Iowa at the invitation of artist Grant Wood during the Great Depression to participate in the federal Public Works of Art Projects for Iowa State and stayed to make a permanent and lasting impression on the campus landscape.

Decorative Arts

In 1962, Ann and Henry Brunnier pledged to Iowa State a collection of dolls and decorative arts amassed over fifty-five years. The donation included a comprehensive European, North American and Asian decorative art collection. This was comprised of glass, ceramics, Old Russian enamels, and ivory carvings. Ann’s collection included more than 4,000 objects, filling two semi-trucks. Since this original donation, hundreds of other private patrons have donated other decorative arts collections to expand the University Museums’ permanent collections. In addition to a large encyclopedic collection of glass, fine ceramics, Russian enamels and ivory, this collection also includes furniture, jades, pottery, snuff bottles, and carved wood objects.

Dolls, Games and Toys

In 1962, Ann and Henry Brunnier pledged to Iowa State a collection of dolls and decorative arts amassed over fifty-five years. The donation included a comprehensive European, North American and Asian doll collection. Ann’s total collection included more than 4,000 objects, filling two semi-trucks. Since this original donation, the doll collection has been carefully curated to include some of the best of Ann’s collection. Victorian era games and toys are also in this collection, many of which are on display at the Farm House Museum.

Iowa College Pottery

The history of art pottery at Iowa State began in 1920 with the hiring of Paul Cox (American, 1879-1968) as acting head of the Ceramic Engineering Department. Cox has previously spent eight years at Newcomb College in New Orleans as technical director of Newcomb Pottery. Cox eventually became the official head of ISU’s Ceramic Engineering Department in 1926. Initially Cox’s attention was focused on clearing and preparing the laboratories and work spaces, as well as securing new equipment. The then began traveling throughout Iowa as part of an extension program designed to educate the public about the area of ceramics and its importance to industry and home decoration. Because of Cox’s influence, the modeling of clay and the production of art pottery began to receive equal attention with the technical aspects of ceramics.

The Ceramic Engineering Department slowly gained popularity among students and faculty. Under Cox’s direction the student branch of the American Ceramic Society became involved with VEISHEA (the annual student celebration) and its traditions. The students prepared floats for the parade and also made hundreds of ceramic souvenirs to be sold or given away to campus visitors. One such souvenir, a ceramic tile featuring the iconic Campanile involved then sculptor-in-residence Christian Petersen, and can be seen in this exhibition.

In 1924 Cox hired Newcomb graduate Mary Lanier Yancey (American, 1902-1983) as an instructor in the Ceramic Engineering Department. Her position had two priorities: teaching pottery design and creating pottery for exhibiting throughout the state. Yancey’s Arts and Crafts style pottery was sold and the resulting funds were returned to the department to assist in funding its operations. Most of Yancey’s students were women majoring in Home Economics. The male students in the department worked the clay and prepared it for shaping. The women formed pots by hand or by using a kickwheel. The pots were then glazed and fired and taken home to admire.

Art pottery production at Iowa State ended in 1930 with both Cox and Yancey leaving the department. The “art” aspect of the Ceramic Engineering Department at Iowa State was terminated in 1939 when the emphasis went entirely to engineering and technical matters.

Iowa Quester Glass Collection

The Iowa Quester Glass Collection now numbers over 1,000 objects ranging from monumental Brilliant Period cut glass to colorful art glass and a diverse array of Early American Pattern Glass. This unique collection, housed in and cared for by Iowa State University Museums, Ames, Iowa, showcases American glass from 1840 to 1950.

In 1996, a partnership was formed between the Iowa Questers led by Kay Beckett of the Neta Snook Chapter in Ames, then Iowa Questers’ State President, Shirley Foster, and University Museums’ director, Lynette Pohlman. At that time, the University Museums was known nationally for having an encyclopedic glass collection as recognized by scholars and the pre-eminent American glass museum, the Corning Museum of Glass of Corning, NY. After a vote from the Iowa Quester State Council the Iowa Quester Glass Collection was formalized with the following mission: “To establish an Iowa Questers Glass Collection, of historic glass from around the world, at Iowa State University Museums. This would provide a State of Iowa resource for preserving, viewing and interpreting historic glass objects. The focus will be on American-made glass from 1840-1945.”

Now the bulk of the collection is American pressed glass pre-Depression Era most of which would fall under the Early American Pressed Glass (EAPG) group. Iconic works of glass include a Jumbo pattern table set, many pieces of Iowa City and Keota glass, a Rebecca at the Well tall standard compote, Terrestrial Globe pattern butter dish, examples from historical glass, the state’s series, and novelties. Thoughtful gifting of three major pressed glass collections just this past two years included over 130 toothpick holders, dozens of whale oil lamps, and a collection of 50+ sauce dishes and other glass works. With the help of many chapters, individuals, partners and collaborators, the collection continues to grow by leaps and bounds!

Mid-century Modern

The end of World War II brought about an era of prosperity and incredible change in America. While many European countries struggled to regain their economic footing in the wake of abject destruction, America was relatively unscathed. The ensuing economic boom would transform how Americans lived, worked, and consumed goods. As a result, the various consumer industries ramped up production, enabled planned obsolescence, and made America a nation of buyers, all while great social change and Cold War fears informed a rapidly changing culture from 1945 through the 1960s.

With rapid demobilization there was an enormous influx of American soldiers returning home in the years just after the end of World War II. As young families began to embark on their post-wartime lives, there was a great need for suitable and economically priced housing. Credits and grants supported by the government for veterans and young homebuyers further bolstered the new housing market. The “American Dream” sense of idealism associated with owning your own home ran rampant and significantly changed the lifestyles of Americans. In response, home builders began to rapidly develop suburban enclaves, filled with streets of easy to construct housing, where every home owner had their own patch of green, a driveway for their new car (a necessity as people moved out of urban centers and into the rambling suburbs), and a sparkling new kitchen for women to cook and entertain from.

A great economy, a ready and willing population of consumers, and American idealism brought forth a new era of design for fashion and consumer goods, most especially those associated with the decoration of the home. Today this period of time, 1945 through the 1960s, is referred to as Mid-Century Modern. A catchall phrase that encapsulates a completely new style of home decoration, taste, fashion, and life that occurred during these years of post-war boom.
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Images from the University Museums’ collection cannot be used for publication, apparel/non-apparel merchandise, digital or commercial purposes without prior written permission from the University Museums, Iowa State University. Fair use does not apply to the extent that a license agreement or other contract controls reproduction or other use. University Museums and Iowa State University makes no representation that it is the owner of the copyright of the art object depicted in the photo materials and assumes no responsibility for any claims by third parties arising out of use of the photo materials. Users must obtain all other permissions required for usage of the art object and the photo materials. 

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Sculpture in the permanent collection ranges from works in glass and stone to bronze and fabric. This collection includes North and South American, Asian, African and European sculpture.

Works of Art on Paper

Works of art on paper includes the drawings, photographs, and fine art prints in the collection in addtion to books and documents. The drawings in this collection include a range from realism to abstraction and landscapes to cartoons. Notable artist include Christian Petersen, Frank Miller, Frank Lobdell, and Ellen Wagener. The prints in University Museums permanent collection range early 1800s fashion prints to a large collection of American Scene prints by Depression era artists like Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Louis Lozowick. The collection also boasts the largest collection of fine art prints and printing plates by Jay N. “Ding” Darling as well as prints by significant contemporary printmakers such as Amy Worthen, Beth VanHoesen, and Mark Adams. Many of the photographs in the collection are of ISU campus by George Christensen and King Au.