Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Jean L. Hudson

Committee Members

Dawn Scher Thomae, William W. Wood


Ceramic, Documentation Systems, Moche, Museum Documentation, Vessels


For this thesis, I studied Moche ceramic vessel collections from three museums, the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM), the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin. All three collections originated around the turn of the twentieth century, with the earliest accession in 1893 and the most recent in 2007. These Moche ceramic vessel collections clearly illustrate the evolving museum documentation systems used in natural history and anthropology museums and the challenges of trying to standardize object names, descriptions, and attributes in the museum record. My research for this thesis included personally examining vessels in the three museums, documenting each piece (when feasible) and taking photographs of the Moche ceramic vessels to link visual descriptions of the pieces to the categories to which they were assigned at the time of accession. Archival information, such as donor files and exhibition files, provided a more comprehensive understanding of the categorization techniques used at the time of accession. Collections in storage and on exhibit were reviewed. The exhibits used for this study are located at the MPM, where the exhibit containing Moche ceramics was completed in 1974, and the Field Museum, where the relevant exhibit opened in 2006, and the Logan Museum’s visual storage, which was constructed in 1995. The study of these exhibits offers an understanding of the display and interpretive choices made by museum personnel, which may reflect the museum’s provenience and provenance records as well as perspectives about the objects at the time the exhibit was developed. Evolving documentation and organization techniques directly correspond to the challenges museums confront as they have grown into cultural institutions that reflect their local, national, and international communities.