Understanding Online Records

The Department of Anthropology’s collections databases make a wealth of information available online - so much that it can be overwhelming. This section provides information about types of records in each database, tips on searching, and explanations on how the databases relate to each other as well as to other Smithsonian collections.

Which Anthropology Database Do I Want?

If you are only interested in finding ethnographic and archaeological objects, use the Collections Database.  It includes information only on the Anthropology object collection.

If you are only interested in archival materials such as photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, or moving image collection, use the Collections Search Center.

The object collection and the archival collections are closely related, with materials assembled by many of the same collectors. If you are interested in finding everything relating to a site, a culture, or a person, use the Collections Search Center, which includes both of these databases as well as wider Smithsonian resources.  

Looking for Objects | Looking for Archival Materials | Collections Search Center- Anthropology Resources



Anthropology Resources

Emu database

SIRIS archives

collections cross search


The Department of Anthropology, a part of the National Museum of Natural History, maintains ethnographic, archaeological, and human biological collections numbering over two and a half million items and the nation’s premier archives devoted to anthropological manuscripts and film. Anthropology collections document world cultures past and present and the history of anthropology. Information on collections, conservation, and research is available through the databases and web pages listed below.

Collections Search Center (CSC)
- The Collections Search Center provides easy "one-stop searching" of more than 5.4 million of the Smithsonian's museum, archives, library and research holdings and collections from across the institution. Selected fields from Anthropology’s ethnographic, archaeological, and archival databases are included, and the CSC provides links to the specific online databases listed below.

Department of Anthropology Collections Database - This database provides access to catalog records for the archaeology and ethnology collections, with 420,000 records representing an estimated 2.5 million individual objects. The online database includes selected information from the catalog about objects, including their identification, place of collection, and cultural attribution. More than 111,000 images of objects are available, and more are added as they become available.

John Wesley Powell Anthropology Library - The library database is included in SIRIS. The Anthropology Library is one of 20 branches in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries system. It supports the research, publication, exhibitions, and public programming of the department and the wider Smithsonian. The collection reflects the important role that the Smithsonian played in the development of anthropology as a formal discipline in the United States. The library maintains the All Anthropology Staff Publications Database.


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