Call of Cthulhu: Letters from Arkham
Miskatonic University Exhibit Museum
687 W. College Street
The first building built for Miskatonic Liberal College, the museum building was originally constructed in 1765. Following a fire in 1902, the museum was rebuilt and enlarged.
A strange relic from the University’s beginnings, the Miskatonic Exhibit Museum has been part of the school since Jeremiah Orne first revitalized Arkham College in 1765. The present museum stands on the site of the original Orne
Building, the first building built for Miskatonic Liberal College. Following a fire in 1902, the museum was completely rebuilt and enlarged to its present state.
The museum is open to the public 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free to all.
The outer façade of the museum is grand and austere, decorated (like so many of the newer campus buildings) in neoclassic style. Corinthian columns and marble statues of Jeremiah Orne and Stanley Hoyt flank the entrance. Within, wide galleries and spacious halls abound, all dressed in granite and marble. Tall windows and skylights provide ample illumination. Footfalls and voices echo. As the day winds on, the shadows lengthen ominously.
Funding for museum acquisitions has always been sparse. For many years the collections within were stagnant, dependent on occasional private donations for changes. In recent years, however, the museum has enjoyed resurgence under its current curator, Mr. Grewe.
George Grewe, an Arkhamite of good family and long-time supporter of the university, took over as chief curator in 1924, and has proved to be far more vigorous than his predecessors. The Grewes helped fund the original museum renovation in 1902, and have donated several properties to the University. An active supporter of President Wainscott’s modernizing program, Grewe has taken advantage of the increase in University field expeditions to bring a host of new objects into the museum displays. In the process, Grewe has forged steady friendships with several professors in the departments of History, Archaeology, and Geology. Grewe has three associate curators to assist with the administration of the museum. Associate curators’ primary duties include the cataloging and preservation of museum holdings. A trio of tour guides (docents after 1960), a receptionist, two janitors, and the caretaker round out the staff. Two guides are students.
The caretaker acts as the museum’s maintenance man and sole security guard, and is one of the more odd posts among the University staff. According to an obscure provision in the original University charter, all Exhibit Museum caretakers must come from the Tetlow family of Dunwich. The Tetlows were the original servants to university founder Jeremiah Orne, and custodianship of the museum was granted to the family as a reward for a lifetime of dedicated service. Caretakers are appointed for as long as they would like to hold the post, typically about twenty years (the current caretaker is the ninth to serve). The caretaker lives in a small apartment at the rear of the building, and enjoys a modest stipend from the university for his troubles.
Holdings: The large Natural History section includes stuffed elephants, lions, and a massive shark, as well as an incorrectly mounted sauropod skeleton and an array of other smaller fossils. An extensive exhibit discussing evolution drew community protest when it opened a year ago (the museum was nearly closed in the furor), and is still popular among progressive-minded students.
A series of cases contain various geological samples, cases full of crystals and gemstones, and exhibits describing long-term geological processes. Four models portray the evolution of the Miskatonic Valley from the last glacial episode some 10,000 years ago to the present.
Ancient Cultures houses several dramatic dioramas concerning primitive man. Mannequins depicting Iroquois, Inuit, and Misqat Indians are prominently displayed, as are impressive Roman and Viking dioramas. The exhibit on human evolution has dioramas of scantily clad Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons that have been sources of controversy in the past.
The Ancient and Classical Arts exhibit includes several Grecian urns, plaster casts of Greek, Roman, and Gothic statuary and friezes, and a medieval broadsword still in excellent condition. A set of perfect stone spheres from Costa Rica can also be found here, along with Aztec and Toltec artifacts from Mexico. Recent University expeditions have added artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the ancient Maya of Central America.
The Contemporary Cultures rooms include artifacts and historical material from Colonial-era New England, and boasts an impressive collection of folk art, including a large exhibit about the witch hysteria of the seventeenth century. A massive exhibit on the wonders of modern industry and technology takes up half of the hall. The museum also boasts a spacious art gallery, full of fine paintings and sculpture.
A new feature, the Rotating Exhibit Room, presents materials loaned to Miskatonic by other institutions. Currently this room holds an extensive collection of Polynesian artifacts on loan from the Sanbourne Institute for Pacific Studies in Santiago, California. The Sanbourne material will remain at Miskatonic until the spring of 1930.
The core of the museum’s holdings is the Orne Collection, a large sampling of the Caribbean and Polynesian artifacts (trinkets, mostly) that Miskatonic founder Jeremiah Orne collected during his career on the high seas. Public interest in Orne’s original pieces has waned, and the Collection now languishes in a dim hall at the rear of the building.