The Chippewa Valley Museum has over 23,000 artifacts in its object collection. Less than 12% are on exhibit at any given time. The rest are in storage, being preserved for future generations. There are items as small as dollhouse miniatures, as old as 4,000 year old copper knives, and as large as a 28 foot pumper truck used by the Eau Claire Fire Department. Taken together, the collections help tell the stories of the various people who have lived, worked, and played in the Chippewa Valley.
Farming and Farm Life
There are over 1,500 tools, farm machinery, home furnishings, building components, work clothes, and other objects associated with agriculture and rural life on display or in storage at the Chippewa Valley Museum.
From 1917-1992, Gillette Safety Tire Factory (later known as U.S. Rubber, Uniroyal, Uniroyal-Goodrich) was the largest employer in Eau Claire. The museum has tools and equipment used in tire production, work clothing, safety equipment, union materials, and products made at the plant.
The Historic Schlegelmilch House is the largest artifact in this substantial sub-collection. Four generations of the Schlegelmilch-Barland families, united in 1886 when Dora Schlegelmilch married John C. Barland, saved household furnishings, tools and gadgets from the family hardware store, and hundreds of letters and documents. The museum has 1,171 objects associated to family members. Items range from a hair jewelry created by Schlegelmilch women to guns and furniture made by Herman Schlegelmilch to paintings by regional artist S.O. Lund collected by the family.
There are 6,400 objects that help to interpret life at home. The Schlegelmilch House and the associated family papers provides an excellent study in domestic life, bringing to life a history unusually rich with women's stories. Housecleaning equipment, kitchen tools, sewing equipment, children’s toys, and home furnishings all provide insight on private lives at home.
Business and Industry
American settlement began in the Chippewa Valley during the lumber boom of the 1850s. Associated businesses sprang up to support the logging industry. The collection includes 850 advertising materials and over 1,300 tools and equipment related to businesses and industries that have historically driven the region’s economy. Some of these businesses include McDonough Manufacturing, Royal Credit Union, Cascade Tissue (known as Eau Claire Pulp and Paper Company when it opened in 1882), Walter Brewing Company, National Presto Industries, Timm’s Dairy, and Pioneer Furniture.
Chippewa Valley Museum collections are folk art-rich. Objects ranging from quilts to Ojibwe moccasins to hand-made furniture reflect handwork skills, culture, and the physical environment of past and present residents. In 2007, Emily Pfotenhauer from the Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database project worked with CVM to document decorative artwork in our collection.
A hands-on collection of duplicate objects, reproductions, and replicas help extend educational programming. These are used during school tours, in the Lars and Grethe Anderson Log House, in exhibits, and in circulating History Kits [link to page].
Donate to the Collection
Most of the museum’s collections have been donated by former and current residents. We look for items that have a local story, are unique to our collection, are in good condition, and can safely be stored in our facilities. Donated materials are preserved in our climate controlled storage spaces for future generations and made accessible to the public for use in projects like exhibits.