First established as the Department of Archaeology in 1937, with a special focus on Paleoindian and Archaic archaeology, the Museum was long home to pioneer scholar Hannah Marie Wormington. In 1968, the Department of Anthropology was created when the 12,000-piece Crane Collection of North American Indians was donated to the Museum. Today's department focuses on original research, collections development, inclusive outreach, and service to the discipline.


The need for active and innovative research has always been emphasized at the Museum. Research in the past has included tracing Paleoindian migrations, the aesthetic development of basketry, and spiritual and historical importance of bison for Native peoples. Research in the department today focuses on tree-ring chronology and the history of archaeology in the American Southwest, locating the earliest evidence of humans in the Great Plains, and the social and political uses of history.


Exhibits have long provided the department with the opportunity to present world cultures. Since 1956, the department has supported more than 170 individual exhibits. Aside from sustaining two permanent exhibit halls, the department creates small temporary exhibitions in two spaces, the Weckbaugh Special Exhibit case and the Ethnological Art Exhibit. Recent efforts have extended beyond exhibits to include a range of programs geared towards connecting with the Rocky Mountain region's Native American communities.


In addition to administrative duties, the Museum encourages staff to contribute to the development of the discipline. In 1968, Hannah Marie Wormington held one of the country's highest positions, as President of the Society for American Archaeology. Current staff holds a diverse range of positions, including board memberships with the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) Archaeology Division, the AAA Council for Museum Anthropology, the American Quaternary Association, and the Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums.


  • Folsom point and Clovis point
  • Hopi Kachina dolls
  • Ancestral Pueblo Pitcher

More than 50,000 objects constitute the Anthropology Collection. As recently described in the book Crossroads of Culture, the collection is mainly comprised of archaeological and ethnological artifacts from North America. The department also curates collections from Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Additional holdings include the 800-piece Ethnological Art Collection and archival photographs and documents. The department is fully committed to compliance with the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and all other national and international laws that impact anthropological objects.


Who We Are

The Department of Anthropology aspires to curate the best understood and most ethically held anthropology collection in North America. We seek to document and understand the human communities of the Rocky Mountain region and beyond through study of their material cultures while adhering to the guiding principles of respect, reciprocity, and dialogue. 

Through ethnology (the study of recent and living peoples) and archaeology (the study of ancient human culture) the department investigates human diversity in our rapidly transforming world and shares with the public the excitement of the discipline's art and science.

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