Collections Search Center - Anthropology Resources

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Search Suggestions Frequently Asked Questions


cross search screenshotThe Collections Search Center (CSC) is a great place to find collections across the Smithsonian and to explore objects, archives and library holdings using a creative visual search mechanism. It offers a single search tool to help users more easily find links among the holdings of our four collecting units, the Department of Anthropology Collections, the National Anthropological Archives, and the Human Studies Film Archives, as well as the John Wesley Powell Library. The CSC does not offer additional data but it does provide a different way to imagine and explore the collections.

Plus and Minus Search Strategies
The Collections Search Center works best by starting with a broad search term, which may generate much more than you can review, and then narrowing the results using the Modify Your Search sidebar at the left side of the page. Click on each category to see what is included and eliminate irrelevant material by clicking on the minus sign. Or scroll down to find the list of Data Sources and narrow the results to one repository by selecting the plus sign for the one you want. Name, Culture, and Place are the most reliable data fields for Anthropology of the many choices offered.

Results appear in abbreviated view with only a few fields shown. Click Expand to see all fields or select Expand All at the top of the results page. Clicking View at the bottom of each record takes you to the source database, such as SIRIS or Anthropology Collections.

Visual Browsing
Selecting Grid View at the top of the page allows you to browse collection results visually with limited data displayed. The CSC includes digital images for more than 80,000 objects and 36,000 archival records from the Department of Anthropology.

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These are introductory answers to frequently asked questions about the National Anthropological Archives, Human Studies Film Archives and the Archaeology, Ethnology and Physical Anthropology Collections.

Which database should I use?
It depends on what you are trying to achieve. For general exploration, the Collections Cross Search may be a good starting point. If you are looking for something specific and want to focus your search, SIRIS or the Collections Database will allow you to design more specific queries.

I can’t find what I want in SIRIS or the Collections Search Center.  What am I doing wrong?

Are you trying to learn what we have? You may have narrowed your search too much. Try broadening it with more general terms or fewer terms.  Try alternate spellings, especially for culture terms that may have varied over time.

Are you looking for something specific you have seen cited? Unfortunately, many authors are careless with citations. Try searching on keywords, such as collector, as well as by the catalog or manuscript number. Are you certain that the material is at the Smithsonian?  The National Museum of Natural History (that’s us) is sometimes confused with the American Museum of Natural History (in New York) and the National Anthropological Archives is sometimes confused with the National Archives and Records Administration. Check your source.

You are always welcome to contact our staff with questions about the collections.

Can I visit the Anthropological Archives and Collections?

Anthropology Archives and Collections are open to the public by appointment. The rules and conditions for visiting vary slightly for each unit. An appointment to one unit does not guarantee an appointment to the other so if you wish to visit both Collections and Archives you will need to make separate appointments.

For Archaeology, Ethnology and Physical Anthropology Collections, please click here to make an appointment.

For the NAA and HSFA please click here to make an appointment.

How do I order copies?

For information on ordering copies of National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives material, please click here.

For information on obtaining photographs of objects or artifacts from the Anthropology Collections, please click here.

How do I get more information?

If you have any questions about our collections, please feel free to contact our staff.

For general questions related to the Archaeology, Ethnology and Physical Anthropology collections, please contact:
Collections Management
Dept of Anthropology
Tel 301.238.1340
Fax 301.238.3109
Staff contacts click here.

For general questions related to manuscripts, photographs, and sound recordings, please contact: 
National Anthropological Archives
Tel 301-238-1300
Fax 301-238-2883

For general questions related to moving image material, please contact:
 Human Studies Film Archives
Tel 301-238-1330
Fax 301-238-2883

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