The Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections acquired the Eichberger East African Art Collection in 2007. This collection was created by Willis George Eichberger who collected these items during his ten-year stay in Ghana West Africa and Ethiopia in the 1960’s while he worked with the United States Department of State.
Willis George Eichberger was born in Nebraska in 1912 and died in Texas in 1996. He attended the University of Nebraska and Iowa State University earning degrees in Agricultural Economics and a PhD in Economics. He had a long career with the federal government working the Department of Health Education and Welfare, ultimately becoming Deputy Chief Economist for HEW. While there he established the National Economics Division for Water Supply and Pollution. In the 1960’s he joined the State Department and traveled to East Africa, where he lived for ten years in Ghana West Africa and Ethiopia. After he retired in 1972, he lived briefly in Valdosta, Georgia, before finally moving to Texas, his last residence. His wife was Gretchen Eichberger, who predeceased him in 1993; the Eichbergers had two children, a daughter, Erma Cunningham, and a son, Robert Eichberger.
The collection includes a wide variety of trade carvings, traditional pottery, basketry, jewelry, gourds, cloth, weapons, some paintings, sixties-era publications about the area of East Africa, and numerous slides with photographs of the area. Some of the items in the collection are obviously antique, including a small Bible written in “Geeze” and other jewelry and pottery. The collection is often on display in the VSU Archives patron area and in the Odum Library Gallery. The collection also travels annually to the Azalea International Folk Festival held the first weekend in March at the Rainwater Conference Center in Valdosta, Georgia. To see specific items from the collection, please come to the VSU Archives and Special Collections patron area on the 4th floor of Odum Library. We are open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday-Thursday, and from 9 am to 3 pm on Friday. To learn more about the collection, you may check our finding aid for the Eichberger East African Art Collection: https://archivesspace.valdosta.edu/repositories/2/resources/380. Please enjoy this online exhibit created by Andy Wallace, photographer, archivist and MLIS student in partial fulfillment of her Independent study in Photograph Access and Preservation, completed May, 2009. Site updated 2019.