$5 million gift to create museum of rare Native American artifacts


Jim and Vanita Oelschlager

University of Akron President Matthew J. Wilson today announced that longtime UA benefactors Jim and Vanita Oelschlager have generously made an additional $5 million gift commitment to the University.

The Oelschlagers are among the University’s largest donors and have been supporters for 25 years. This gift will enable the construction of The Oak Native American Museum as part of the Institute for Human Science and Culture at UA’s Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

The new museum will provide research opportunities and community access to the Oelschlagers’ collection of 800 rare Native American artifacts.

Hands-on learning experience

The Cummings Center will house the museum, which will involve renovation of the building’s third and fourth floors to feature galleries, a reading room, classrooms and a workshop. The result will be a landmark institute bringing together special collections, exhibits, educational programs and courses as well as research exploring what it means to be human.

“The Institute for Human Science and Culture is devoted to education and research in the history, preservation, documentation and interpretation of the human experience,” said President Wilson, who announced the Oelschlager gift at today’s Board of Trustees meeting. “This gift will become an asset to the entire community, offering hands-on learning experiences involving the museum’s collection.”

“We decided that The University of Akron would be the appropriate organization to house, display and study our Native American collection,” said Jim Oelschlager. “It will provide students an opportunity to learn how to manage, research and display these historical items from different parts of the continent, thus preparing them to be able to work on other collections.” Vanita Oelschlager added, “We are taking a private collection and making it available to the students for study and to the general public for viewing.”

Early planning is underway for The Oak Native American Museum. Construction will require approximately 18-20 months, and no opening date has yet been set. The museum will offer hours for public viewing, while group tours and visits also will be able to be scheduled.

Examination of humanity

“Important collections – including those from the new museum – will be housed at the Institute, all providing historical understanding and portrayals of human science and culture,” said David Baker, executive director of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology. “This will promote the examination of humanity from multiple perspectives — psychological, anthropological, artistic and historical.”  

A fulltime curator to manage the collection of Native American artifacts through their display, cataloging and preservation is also supported by the Oelschlagers, in cooperation with the Lynn Rodeman Metzger Endowed Curatorship in Anthropology.

Jim and Vanita Oelschlager have long supported The University of Akron. The Oelschlager Summer Leadership Institute allows area high school students to participate in a seven-day workshop on UA's campus introducing them to the skills, attitudes, and resources necessary for success in college. More than 700 students have benefitted from this program supported by the Oelschlagers, now in its 17th year. The Oelschlagers have also supported various scholarships for UA students, helping hundreds achieve their college dreams.