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Department of Anthropology

Mexican masks in storage unit


The online Anthropology Collection Database includes over 428,000 archaeology and ethnology catalog records, representing about 2 million individual objects. Our collections are drawn from cultures in every part of the world, from early humans to the present day.



The Collections Database includes over 99% of the cataloged objects that are currently in the ethnology and archaeology collections. New records are added as the objects are cataloged.

The online records include the fields of information most commonly requested by researchers, including digital images. Over 111,000 object photographs are currently available, with more added every week. Most ethnology records also include a scanned image of the corresponding catalog card, showing how the object was originally cataloged, and sometimes providing additional information.

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Data Sources and Quality

The catalog information displayed here was compiled over the course of 150 years. The data is drawn from many sources, including catalog cards, original accession papers, letters from donors, and staff attributions. Many records are incomplete, and most have not been recently reviewed by specialists to verify accuracy.

Culture terms, or ethnonyms, have generally been retained from the original catalog, with some standardization in spelling. They may include terms that are vague, obsolete or no longer preferred by members of a particular culture, tribe or ethnic group. Individual researchers should consider how the ethnonym usage of a given time correlates with terminology used today.

Object names and descriptions generally derive from the original time of cataloging. They often were based on information provided by the collector.

Index terms have been developed in recent years to facilitate computer searches by simplifying terminology and standardizing spelling. The terms are assigned based on the object name and do not represent a more precise identification or a typological classification.

Place names are usually derived from information given by the donor or collector. To facilitate database searching, most place names have been updated to reflect current terminology and political boundaries.

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Use of Images and Information

Subsets of information and images in this database may be reproduced for non-commercial, educational and personal use only. Students, teachers, and individual users may download, print, photocopy, and distribute these materials for personal or classroom use without prior permission, provided that the files are not altered and you acknowledge the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, as the source of these materials. When applicable, please cite the catalog number(s) for the objects represented in the image(s) or data.

The reproduction of images or text from this database on a website, or for any publication or commercial use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission.

Images in this database come from a variety of sources, and most are reference shots not suitable for high quality reproduction or publication. If there are photo negative numbers listed in the catalog record, this indicates that publishable quality images produced by the Smithsonian Photographic Services office are available for ordering.

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More Information

  • Internal documents such as accession files, ledger books, and catalog cards may contain more information. Our Guide to Collections Records outlines the resources available.
  • Additional data, such as accession histories and information about deaccessioned items, may be available in the main collections database. Submit a printout request to receive a downloaded copy of this data.

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Visit the collections

  • Individuals or groups who wish to inquire about repatriation or schedule a consultation visit should contact the Repatriation Office.

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Data policies



Other Anthropology Collections


Physical Anthropology

The Physical Anthropology Collection consists of human anatomical specimens, primarily osteological, that are used for research in skeletal biology, paleopathology, human variation, medical research, forensic investigations, and questions concerning human origins.

National Anthropological Archives and the Human Studies Film Archives

The National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives collect and preserve anthropological materials that document the world's cultures and the history of anthropology. Collections include fieldnotes, journals, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, maps, sound recordings and moving images.


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