The Archives collects, catalogs, and preserves the Museum's administrative, cultural, and scientific history

The Archives Department preserves the institution’s historic records, dating back over a century to the Museum’s founding years. Together these collections provide a valuable resource to researchers around the world.

The image archives collection of more than 700,000 images covers a broad range of people, places, and events. Highlights include historic images of the Museum building, and iconic fieldwork—from the Dent Site discovery of the 1930s to the Snowmastodon Project discovery in 2010. The film archive has over 2,000 titles covering the museum’s expeditions throughout the 20th century.

Document collections include over 33,000 files of correspondence, research data, field notes, and administrative records. Highlights include several decades’ worth of journals from the Museum’s second director, Alfred M. Bailey, documenting his fieldwork around the world, and the papers of pioneering anthropologist Ruth Underhill.

The Collections


The Archives preserves the Museum’s history through a trove of documents dating to the institution’s pre-history.  With over 2000 linear feet of records, we preserve the stories behind how museum staff conducted research, designed exhibits, pursued initiatives, and developed programs.

Our records tie back to the earliest days of the museum, starting with the original specimen slips for the collection that inspired the creation of the museum – the taxidermy collection of Edwin Carter. Carter’s field notes are modest scraps of paper with dates and measurements of each specimen collected, and are the first catalog of the Museum’s first collection.

We also have correspondence surrounding the discovery and excavation of the Dent Site in the 1930s, field notes from decades of international expeditions to acquire specimens for dioramas and research, and records for recent and long-gone exhibitions. We also keeps objects from the Museum’s past that help tell the story of the institution, its work, and the people that made it happen; such as equipment used to make dioramas, and tools used in field collecting.

We serve Museum staff looking for information on historic events, details on specimens in the collection, or any number of other questions about the Museum’s past. We also host outside researchers who might need supplemental information about specimens like meteorites or insects managed by our colleagues, or might simply want to examine our papers for examples of how museum work has changed over time.

The Image Archives

The image archives collection, established in 1977, is the official central repository of the Museum’s owned photography and moving images, and a large sculpture collection. These materials support internal staff, scholars, and commercial enterprises. More than 20,000 images from these collections are digitized and give insight into early exhibit making, school programs, taxidermy work, and the now famous 1927 Folsom point discovery in Dent, Colorado, to name a few. And least we forget, the largest excavation in Museum history, the Snowmastodon Project. See our digital collections online on Luna.

These collections provide insight into a world in transition. Highlights include historic images of the museum from the very beginning, both in the field and in the collections. There are over 4,400 titles in the moving image collection covering international expeditions throughout the 20th century as well as rare subjects like the now extinct Dusky Seaside sparrow and interviews with World War II Navajo code talkers.

We also house a significant Film Archive with collections of fieldwork and natural history films created by staff and Director Alfred M. Bailey. The Bailey films were internationally renowned in the 1950’s and ‘60s and still delight audiences today.

The Plains to Peaks Collective

Plains to Peaks Collective

We partnered with the Colorado State Library and Colorado Virtual Library to make DMNS images even more accessible to the public.  Over 21,000 images have been added to the Plains to Peaks Collective and are accessible through the Digital Public Library (DPLA) website.  Adding images to this national aggregator will provide greater public visibility and access. 

Leigh Jeremias, Digital Collections Coordinator at the Colorado State Library, highlighted our joining the collective in a blog post.  Read it here: Our Historic Story Keeps Growing

WS Ranch Archives Project

The WS Ranch Project encompasses the work of the University of Texas Archaeological Field School in west-central New Mexico between 1977 and 1994. Participants got hands-on experience learning the principles of archaeological excavation while working on a site left behind by people from the Mogollon culture. This work resulted in a significant number of artifacts and scientific documentation that have never been available to the public.

Project Background

The WS Ranch Project encompasses nearly 20 years of archaeological excavation and survey in the Gila National Forest and surrounding areas in west-central New Mexico. Excavations occurred mainly at the WS Ranch site but also included work at nine other locations.

Surveys and test excavation began at the WS Ranch site in 1977 under the guidance of James A. Neely, PhD. Shortly thereafter, surveys and test excavations began at the nearby WS-17 (or HO-Bar) site. Similar test excavations occurred at the WS-5 and WS-41 sites (also known as the McKeen Ranch Site), Eva Faust Site, Devil’s Park, Apache Creek Pueblo, O Block Cave, and the Squirrel Springs Site. Several of these sites—including the WS Ranch site, Eva Faust site, and the McKeen site—are partially located on private land. Volunteers from Earthwatch also participated during the field seasons. The archives contain field research reports, scholarly research, student reports, theses, and dissertations, and other materials.

Processing Notes

The archival papers of the project were transferred to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in December 2017; we began processing the papers shortly thereafter. We began by conducting a survey and inventory of the materials, which measured in excess of 70 linear feet. Minimal culling was done—items removed include blank forms, duplicate and irrelevant materials, and non-annotated maps.

We are currently in the process of cataloging this massive collection. We are organizing the papers chronologically by each subsite name within the project, followed by additional surveying work performed on and around the site. Once complete, this collection of papers will support the work of our colleagues in the Anthropology Department, whose job will be to catalog the thousands of artifacts excavated from the site over the two decades that the field school was active.

To view a current inventory of the papers, click Collection Finding Aid.

Learn more from the Mogollon Fact Sheet.

The Bailey Fijian Album Film

This Alfred Bailey lecture film Fijian Album is a forgotten gem from the film archive. It was challenging to restore because the audio file has been lost. However, with painstaking research using his field notes and the discovery of a sound print of background music, we have managed to re-create his original 1963 presentation. Check out the short clip showing a before and after.


Laura Uglean Jackson

Digital Archivist

Lauren Conrad

Assistant Archivist

Courtney J. Scheskie, MA

Business Support Specialist III

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