anthropology collections

American Ethnology Collections

Representing communities and societies from across the Americas, this collection captures the arts, traditions, worldviews, and practices of living cultures

The American ethnology collection dominates the anthropology collections with about 21,000 objects from nearly every corner of the Americas representing hundreds of cultural groups. Objects range from those made last year to the 1700s, from unidentified to maker-identified, and from hobbyist creations to artistic masterpieces. The region in and around Colorado is prime, representing 65% of the collection, and the majority of the objects are from Native American tribes in North America. Strengths also include Hispanic crafts, Mexican Indian arts, Guatemalan and Andean textiles and utilitarian objects, and a variety of Amazonian objects. Several small documented holdings derive from travelers and government or business missions.


Dominique Alhambra, MA

Anthropology Collections Manager and NAGPRA Coordinator

Jeff Phegley, MA

Anthropology Assistant Collections Manager

Stephen E. Nash, PhD

Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology

Erin Baxter, PhD

Acting Curator of Anthropology

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist

Crossroads of Culture:

Anthropology Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The hectic front of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science hides an unseen back of the museum that is also bustling. Less than 1% of the Museum’s collections are on display at any given time, and the Department of Anthropology alone cares for more than 50,000 objects from every corner of the globe, objects that are not normally available to the public. This lavishly illustrated book presents and celebrates the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s exceptional anthropology collections for the first time.

The book presents 123 full-color images to highlight the museum’s cultural treasures. Selected for their individual beauty, historic value, and cultural meaning, these objects connect different places, times, and people. From the mammoth hunters of the Plains to the first American pioneer settlers to the flourishing Hispanic and Asian diasporas in downtown Denver, the Rocky Mountain region has been home to a breathtaking array of cultures. Many objects tell this story of the Rocky Mountains’ fascinating and complex past whereas others serve to bring enigmatic corners of the globe to modern-day Denver.

Crossroads of Culture serves as a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum’s anthropology collections. All of the royalties from this publication will benefit the collections of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Department of Anthropology.

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.

Currently all research visits are on hold.  We will update information when we can.

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.

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