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Department of Anthropology

Temple of the Incriptions, Artists Representation, Palenque, Mexico

Current Exhibits

African Voices African Voices: Portrait
This permanent exhibition in the National Museum of Natural History explores the continent of Africa and its people. Drawing upon the museum's vast collections, as well as commissioned sculptures, textiles and pottery, this exhibition examines the historic diversity, dynamism and global influence of Africa's peoples and cultures.


Past and Online-Only Exhibits

Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People
Over the centuries, the Ainu have mainained their sense of what being Ainu means through beautiful craftsmanship, a rich oral tradition, and complex rituals. This exhibit is the first to celebrate both the contemporary expression of Ainu ethnicity and the experiences of the Ainu past.


Canela Portrait of native man

The Canela Indians of Northeastern Brazil - Explore the daily life, artifacts, environment, and ritual life of the Canela people, with whom emeritus curator Bill Crocker has conducted anthropological fieldwork since the 1950s.


Agayuliyararput, Our Way of Making Prayer / Yu'pik Masks
During 1996, 1997 and 1998 an amazing exhibit of Southwestern Alaskan culture and art toured the United States. Developed jointly by a team of native Yup'ik people, researchers and museum professionals, Agayuliyararput or "Our Way of Making Prayer" was the first exhibit to bring Yup'ik masks and ceremonial materials to a wide audience in their native context.


Alaska Native Collections

Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge
The indigenous heritage of Alaska and adjacent regions is woven from the arts, knowledge, values, and beliefs of many cultures. Explore Smithsonian collections with Native tradition bearers and learn about the peoples of this northern world.


Crossroads of Continents Logo

Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska - The rugged and remote lands and waters of the North Pacific are not at all like the barren wastelands described by early European explorers and cartographers. For at least the past 16,000 humans have adapted to the harsh climate of the region, making a bountiful living from the abundant natural resources of Bering Strait. Crossroads of Continents celebrates the wide diversity and common ancestry of these North Pacific cultures, providing an entirely new understanding of the peoples on both sides of Bering Strait.


Bobo Dread Portrait

Dread History: The African Diaspora, Ethiopianism, and Rastafari - Like the Garvey Movement and other forms of pan-Africanism before it, the Rastafari fashion their vision of an ancestral homeland through a complex of ideas and symbols known as Ethiopianism, an ideology which has informed African-American concepts of nationhood, independence, and political uplift since the late 16th century.


Expeditions - 150 Years of Smithsonian Research in Latin America Celebrates the Smithsonian's pioneering contribution to the study and preservation of the natural history and cultures of the Americas, and offers a window on the complex and rich relations among scientists of the hemisphere. Nearly 100 artifacts, photographs, original documents and rare books originally exhibited at the Inter-American Development Bank’s Cultural Center Gallery are presented on this bilingual site.


Tlingit Man Dancing

Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People of Southern Alaska "What does it mean to be Alutiiq?" The answer flows from history, values, traditions, and spiritual beliefs; from the bonds of family and language; and from lives lived close to the land and sea.



Red Cloud's Manikin and His Uncle's Shirt Examines photographs of early manikins representing Plains Indians in the Smithsonian Institution during the 1870s.


Detail of throne

Royal Gifts from Thailand The symbolic exchange of gifts between Thailand and the United States established a bond between two very different nations and sealed a friendship that endures to this day.


a group of jade figures as they were excavated

Smithsonian Olmec Legacy Between 1939 and 1946, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society co-sponsored eight expeditions to Mexico to explore archaeological sites in Veracruz, Tabasco and Campeche This website tells the story of these and other archaeological expeditions. It also provides an overview of the Department of Anthropology's Olmec archaeological collections, and the related manuscript and photographic material which is housed in the National Anthropological Archives and the Smithsonian Institution Archives.



Textiles of the North American Southwest Explores the weaving traditions of the American Indianand Hispanic residents of the North American Southwest, one of the most important centers of handwoven textile production in the world. Over the past 2000 years, weavers in this region have created a wide variety of textiles that express, in both design and technique, the changing circumstances of their lives and the extensive flow of ideas across cultural frontiers. The weavings presented here, drawn from the extensive textile collections of the Smithsonian Institution, testify to the skill and creativity of these weavers and to the dynamism of their weaving traditions.


Unmasking the Maya: the Story of Sna Jtz'ibajom A Maya cooperative named Sna Jtz'ibajom has given a new voice to the people of Chiapas, Mexico.


Viking Ship

Vikings: The North Altantic Saga

1000 years ago, Leif Eriksson became the first European to reach North American soil. This exhibit illuminates the origins and impact of this pivotal moment in history, shedding light on the Vikings and their expansion across the Atlantic from Scandinavia.


Written in Stone: Inscriptions from the National Museum of Saudi Arabia In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, inscriptions were etched, engraved, pecked, or even sometimes carved in bas-relief on stones or on the rock-faces of cliffs and hills. This website features 54 museum objects which bear examples of ancient epigraphy.

Online Exhibitions from the National Anthropological Archives


The John P. Harrington Collection An entry point to the massive collections assembled by John P. Harrington, much of which has been recently digitized for online access. Harrington was a prolific linguist who assembled resources on some 130 native languages of North America, and his materials include information on endangered languages, traditional environmental language, and material culture. Includes finding aids and links to digitized manuscripts, sound recordings, and other resources.


The Jorge Prelorán Collectionunknown Prelorán was a preeminent Argentine filmmaker whose life's work includes more than fifty films, hundreds of audio recordings, extensive production and correspondence files, and thirty-six digital books on subjects including religion, folklife, art, culture change, and natural history of Argentina and Latin America. This website introduces Prelorán's career and philosophy, provides access to further research in the collection, and offers complete films for viewing on a rotating basis.


A Million Feet of Film / A Lifetime of Friendship: the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000


This website from the Human Studies Film Archives explores the John Marshall Ju/'hoan Bushman Film and Video Collection, 1950-2000, one of the seminal visual anthropology collections of the 20th century. Recently added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register for documentary heritage of extraordinary value, the collection documents fifty years and many dramatic changes in the lives of the Ju/'hoansi (!Kung San Bushmen) of the Kalahari Desert in northeastern Namibia. Incorporating video, audio, still images and text, the web exhibition introduces the collection, its content, and its creator, John Marshall, an important figure in ethnographic film.



Lakota Winter Counts Exhibit Logo

Lakota Winter Counts Shows how Lakota historians depicted memorable events in their communities between 1701 and 1905.


Portrait of Sitting Bull and family

Camping With the Sioux: Fieldwork Diary of Alice Cunningham Fletcher

Canela Body Adornment Photographs of northeastern Brazil from the William H. Crocker collection.


Squint Eyes: Artist & Indian Scout


Tichematse using Plains Sign Language

Tichkematse, A Cheyenne at the Smithsonian The story of a Cheyenne Indian working for the Institution between 1879 and 1881.


Drawing the Western Frontier: The James E. Taylor Album


Coast of Vancouver, by Elliot
Henry Wood Elliott: An American Artist in Alaska

Kiowa Drawings An extensive overview of ledger drawings by Kiowa Indians.


Selections from the Field Journal of William Duncan Strong (Honduras, 1933)


Benedicte Wrensted Portrait

Benedicte Wrensted: An Idaho Photographer in Focus
The remarkable photography of Benedicte Wrensted (1859-1949) lay in obscurity for decades until brought to light by the detective work of a Smithsonian anthropologist while researching photographs for the Smithsonian's Handbook of North American Indians.


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