Ostroms' Bloomington Home

The Ostroms displayed their collections from all over the world at their home in Bloomington, Indiana. (Elinor Ostrom Collection, The Lilly Library)

While their collection of Ojibwe objects is the focus of this exhibition, their collection of Native American art is much larger and includes baskets from many parts of North America. The Ostroms were collecting for reasons beyond their own interests. In a December 1964 letter to The Log Cabin Antiques, Vincent wrote: “we may someday be able to make some useful additions to a university, provincial or state museum in addition to the satisfaction that we are able to gain from collecting the baskets ourselves.”

Elinor’s friend Carol Parks volunteered to help Elinor organize the collection. The pair met many Tuesday mornings at the Ostroms’ Bloomington home to make a record of the pieces Elinor and Vincent had purchased over more than 40 years. Elinor and Carol had no experience preparing a museum collection, but they used a museum labeling kit and recorded information about the art and artifacts kept in each room of the house. Much of this information was used in the preparation of this exhibit.  

The boxes in this collection were purchased on Manitoulin Island at places like the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, where the dual mission of supporting Ojibwe heritage and supporting Ojibwe artists was at the forefront.