Curiosity Unbound: Samuel C. Dellinger, Champion of the University Museum

Samuel C. Dellinger
Image provided by University Libraries Special Collections

Samuel C. Dellinger

An exhibit in the Special Collections department of Mullins Library, Curiosity Unbound, features objects and ephemera of the late University of Arkansas professor, University Museum curator, and conservationist Samuel C. Dellinger. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Libraries' Special Collections Department and University Museum Collections

"Collaborations such as this one between the Special Collections Department and the University Museum are a wonderful opportunity to highlight the unique resources available for research at the university," said Lori Birrell, head of Special Collections.

Dellinger (1892-1973), who had earned degrees in biology and zoology, was hired as an assistant professor of zoology at the University of Arkansas in 1921. He is best known as the "curator" (director) of the University Museum, 1925-1960. Before Dellinger assumed that role, the University Museum was little more than a geology collection. Dellinger's intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm and tenacity transformed the museum with a remarkable collection of wide ranging materials, from Greek antiquities to an unparalleled collection of Native American pottery from Arkansas sources.

The breadth and depth of Dellinger's interests were remarkable. In addition to serving as chair of the Department of Zoology from 1922-1957, Dellinger served as director of the museum from 1925-1960. In 1926, he won a $20,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation for a state archaeological survey, the first such large grant ever awarded in Arkansas. Although lacking formal training in anthropology, he began teaching anthropology courses through the Department of Zoology, and in 1934, he became chair of the Southern Prehistory Society. In the late 1930s and 1940s, he was president and editor of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and in 1960-61, he became the first president of the Arkansas Archeological Society. He was also a charter member of the archaeological societies of Oklahoma and Missouri. At the university, he was adviser to the Arkansas chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-medical and pre-dental fraternity.

Additionally, Dellinger was interested in conservation and taught classes in conservation and natural resources. He was a member of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission from 1922-1957. He supported the Buffalo National River and Lake Fayetteville Park, as well as various liberal political causes. He was also interested in folklore and helped organize the first folklore meeting in Eureka Springs in 1928.

In his retirement, Dellinger continued his political and conservation activities. He was a member of the Audubon Society, the National Gourd Society, the Nature Conservancy, and Fayetteville's City Beautification Committee, of which he was chairman in 1968.

A related exhibit, Cabinet of Curiosities: Treasures from the University of Arkansas Museum Collections, is on display at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock.


Catherine Wallack, architectural records archivist
University Libraries

Kelsey Lovewell Lippard, public relations coordinator
University Libraries


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