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.
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.
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.
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.