Incorporating ethnography and archaeology, the Department of Anthropology studies humans and their many cultures

The Department of Anthropology aspires to curate the best understood and most ethically held anthropology collections 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 ethical principles of respect, reciprocity, and dialogue. Through ethnology (the study of recent and living peoples) and archaeology (the study of ancient human cultures), the department investigates human diversity in our rapidly transforming world and shares with the public the excitement of the discipline’s art and science.


Staff

Stephen E. Nash, PhD

Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology

Chip Colwell, PhD

Senior Curator of Anthropology

Michele Koons, PhD

Associate Curator of Archaeology

Jude Southward, MA

Museum Conservator

Dominique Alhambra, MA

Anthropology Collections Manager and NAGPRA Coordinator

Jeff Phegley, MA

Anthropology Assistant Collections Manager

Meghan Grizzle, MA

Anthropology Collections Assistant

Baylee Hughes, MS

Anthropology Collections Assistant

Erin Baxter, PhD

Archaeologist

Kathryn Reusch, PhD

Conservation Technician

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist

The Work We Do

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.

History

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.

Outreach

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 Exhibits case and the Ethnological Art Exhibit. Recent efforts have extended beyond exhibits to include a range of programs geared toward connecting with the Rocky Mountain region’s Native American communities.

Service

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, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Department of Anthropology welcomes inquiries from the general public. Please do not bring the object(s) to the Museum because non-curatorial staff are not able to accept anthropology materials for review. If you have a question about an object in your care, please consult the instructions for Specimen Identification Requests and Donations. Your inquiry will then be passed along to the appropriate curator for consideration.

The Department does not provide appraisals on material. Please visit the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, or the International Society of Appraisers to find an appropriate appraiser.

Research visits to the anthropology collections require approval through the Anthropology Department and at least two weeks’ notice to coordinate a time. Please note that visitation and work schedules for the collections staff and curators tend to fill up two months in advance, so more lead time is preferable. Visits will be arranged during regular public hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Please fill out the General Access Request Form for consideration. 

More than 50,000 objects constitute the anthropology collections. 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.

The department acquires new items for the collections if the appropriate curator determines the objects fit within the specifications of the Long-Term Collections and Research Plan. The majority of new acquisitions are through donation because acquisition funds are severely limited. If you have a question regarding a potential donation, please email the Collections Manager photos of the object along with a basic description including information on how, when, and where you acquired the object(s). This information will then be passed along to the appropriate curator for consideration.

The department reviews requests for loans from the collections on a case-by-case basis. Please review our Guidelines for Borrowers. Please note that due to the various steps required to complete loan requests, the department requests at least four months between initial contact and the loan start date. There is no set fee for loans; however, there may be costs associated with conservation work, formal appraisals, object packing, and transport.

Highlights may be found in Crossroads of Culture: The Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2010).

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