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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Anthropology

Temple of the Incriptions, Artists Representation, Palenque, Mexico


Current Exhibits


Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic LegendAfrican Voices: Portrait The narwhal, with its unique spiral tusk, has inspired legend in Inuit society and fascinated people across cultures for centuries. Dive deep into the narwhal's Arctic world to explore what makes this mysterious animal and its changing ecosystem so important.

Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World Examine the disease outbreaks that can occur when people move into or change an environment. Tracking down and responding to outbreaks requires coordinated detective work from people in many professions.

African Voices: PortraitAfrican Voices 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.

Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt An exploration of ancient Egyptian mythology, cosmology, and burial ritual. Learn how museum scientists study mummies using advanced imaging technologies, such as CT scans and X-ray radiography, to uncover clues about how ancient Egyptians lived and died.

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins Journey through 6 million years of scientific evidence for human evolution and the stories of survival and extinction in our family tree during times of climate instability.

The Sant Ocean Hall includes stories and artifacts that explore the human connections with the ocean, including the Raven Spirit canoe.


Past and Online-Only Exhibits


Ward's Fire Maker sculptureHerbert Ward: The Artist, His Sculptures, and His African Collection at the Smithsonian.Herbert Ward, a British sculptor, collector and writer, lived and worked in the Congo between 1884 and 1889. In the Congo Ward made a large collection of objects which served as an inspiration for his sculptures of Congolese life.  In 1921 Sarita Ward, the artist’s widow, donated the bronze sculptures along with his collection of Congo objects to the Smithsonian.  This web exhibit highlights Herbert Ward’s artistic career, his Congo object collection, and includes a catalogue of his bronze sculptures.

Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake Human anatomy and forensic investigation provide intriguing information on people and events of America's past. This exhibition (on view from 2009-2014) examined history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those of wealthy and well-established individuals of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

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.

Yuungnaqpiallerput (The Way We Genuinely Live): Masterworks of Yup’ik Science and Survival In this temporary exhibit from 2010, Yup'ik elders shared their scientific and spiritual knowledge for living in the sub-arctic environment of western Alaska. The exhibit included more than 200 19th- and 20th-century tools, clothing, weapons, and watercraft.

Alaska Native CollectionsAlaska 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.

Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely Explore the Arctic’s changing climate, through the eyes of scientists and polar residents. Discover what these changes mean for the Arctic, its wildlife, its people—and the rest of the planet.

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.

Textiles Textiles of the North American Southwest Explores the weaving traditions of the American Indian and Hispanic residents of the North American Southwest. 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.

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.

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