Cincinnati Museum Center Announces Treasures of Travel: Cincinnatians Collect the World

. February 17, 2016

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center is circling the globe for the fifth installment of the Treasures exhibition series. Treasures of Travel: Cincinnatians Collect the World offers a glimpse into the lives and travels of Cincinnatians and the objects they brought home.

Travel is uniquely human. It is an almost necessary impulse to stretch our legs and expand our horizons and our view of the world and all the people in it. The items travelers bring home tell us as much about them as it does the cultures and places they visited. Through historic objects, photographs and letters, Treasures of Travel allows you to accompany these travelers as they leave Cincinnati and explore regions that still held many mysteries even into the mid-20th century.

Among Cincinnati’s most prolific travelers were Julius and Dorette Fleischmann. Between 1931 and 1932, the Fleischmanns sailed around the world aboard the Camargo, the largest personal yacht built in America in 1928. They traveled the South Pacific extensively, meeting and trading with native populations in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Fiji and more. The Fleischmanns intended to collect on their journey, and did so with vigor. They acquired over 900 individual items on their journey, some of which will form the centerpiece of the Treasures of Travel exhibit. Amongst the items are four large decorated men’s canoe house posts, drums, shields and weaponry. Their trip is a snapshot of South Pacific culture in the 1930s and provides a stark contrast to the acculturation and devastation the region encountered during World War II.

World War II brought many Americans to the South Pacific islands, including naval officers and medical personnel like Robert Schildknect and Dr. Arthur G. King. At places like the Solomons and New Hebrides islands, they encountered peoples and objects that were like nothing they had seen before. Their collections include Raffia headdresses, skirts and girdles and ceremonial canes and clubs.

For some, curiosity and a higher calling carried them far away from their homes. Dr. Evelyn Adams served as a doctor and missionary in Cameroon, Africa from 1936 to 1974, returning home with decorated wooden masks, bronze figurines and ceremonial drums from people she grew to know as friends. Robert McElfresh served in the Peace Corps in Sarawak, Malaysia. He returned to Cincinnati in 1974 with a wooden blowgun dart container, wooden spear with metal lance, a pair of woven baskets and journals documenting his time in the Malaysian nation.

While several Americans traveled to areas of the map shrouded in myth and mystery, many opted to stay closer to home, exploring the cultures of American Indians that still flourished in the American Southwest. Marion Palmer and Marie L. K. Willison visited the Pueblo, Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indians, returning home with the intricate and vibrant pottery, jewelry and feather work that continue to define Southwestern culture.

Although most of the travelers featured in the exhibit are Cincinnatians, New Yorker Lewis Cotlow, an avid traveler and filmmaker for RKO Pictures, developed close ties to Cincinnati and donated his collections to Cincinnati Museum Center in 1993. Cotlow’s travels took him from the dark jungles of Africa to the bitter cold of the Arctic and the many places in between from the 1920s through the 1980s. The films he produced detailed some of the most remote and poorly explored portions of the planet, feeding the wanderlust of audiences across the country who saw little of the world beyond their hometowns. Along with his films, Cotlow returned from his travels with a vast collection of photos, letters and artifacts including drums, weavings and weapons.

Treasures of Travel features items exclusively from Cincinnati Museum Center’s collections, with a select few exceptions. Rotating cases will feature items on temporary loan from local travelers. You can also share your own travel stories. Submit photographs and captions that will be featured in the Treasures of Travel exhibit by visiting and filling out the photo submission form. Photos may be submitted through May 1.

Treasures of Travel: Cincinnatians Collect the World opens February 19 in the South Gallery of the Cincinnati History Museum. Admission is included with an All Museums Pass or admission to the Cincinnati History Museum and is free to Cincinnati Museum Center Members. For more information visit

Category: Museum News

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