United States Anthropology Museums
from East Coast to West Coast
If human beings from the past and present pique your interest, check out these anthropology museums on your next vacation. You may not have to travel far. They may be located right in your own neighborhood.
The top seven recommended museums (in no particular order of preference) include Penn Museum: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Logan Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, Peabody Museum, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, San Diego Museum of Man, and Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. All the referenced museums have been around for an extensive period of time, have outstanding reputations, and are known for their worthwhile collections. The final factor affecting museum choice was whether or not exhibits pertained to both the general public and academia populations.
1. Penn Museum: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
It is closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission is free the first Tuesday of each month and always for children under 6 and PENNcard holders and museum members. Adults cost $8.00. Children (6-17), full-time students, and senior citizens pay $5.00.
Penn Museum has been around for over 120 years and holds over one million objects of which many were acquired by its own sponsorship of fieldwork. Missions are to conduct superior research, maintain ethic and science honesty, preserve and document collections and fieldwork sites with great care, develop outstanding interpretive exhibits, relay findings to the public about world's cultural heritage, serve the community, be supportive of diversity and demonstrate fiscal responsibility. To accomplish those goals, the museum continues fieldwork and laboratory research, creates interactive exhibits for educational purposes, remains an international research resource, and encourages staff in entrepreneurial efforts.
Research consists of over 80 ongoing projects in 28 countries on multiple continents. Some highlighted projects are pastoral economic origins in East Africa, India's and Pakistan's nationalism, liberalism and religious practices, Copan Maya state's origin, development and use of early symbols, and the 2800 BC metallurgy industry of the Middle East.
Photography collections, publications and archived resources are available for the public. Programs and events explore world cultures through dance, music and film. Learning opportunities are presented online, in-person, via trips, at schools, special events, distance learning, and through undergraduate research openings. There is even an anthropologist perspective blog.
2. Logan Museum of Anthropology
Beloit College, corner of College Street and Bushnell Street, Beloit, WI 53511
It is closed Mondays and college holidays. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Logan Museum of Anthropology was established in 1893 as a teaching museum. Mission is promoting knowledge of world's cultures by making objects accessible for learners. In order to foster such an environment, the museum focuses on creating, protecting, displaying and construing collections.
Research projects are conducted or sponsored by the museum with an interest in over 450 cultural groups. Collections comprise of about 15,000 ethnographic items primarily from Native North and South Americas, Asia, Pacific, and Africa, and approximately 160,000 artifacts mostly from European Paleolithic, North Africa, Wisconsin, Great Plains, Southwestern United States, Mesoamerica, and South America. The museum houses items from 122 countries.
Visitors get to see the museum's renowned collection of ceramics from South America and Mesoamerica as well as a range of Native North American baskets. There is a selection of Paleolithic art displayed and exceptional artifacts from France and North Africa are also showcased. Publications with additional information are available for purchase.
3. University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology (UMMA)
1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
It is not open to the public on a regular basis so call before visiting. The museum's focus is on teaching, researching, and curating. However, it plays a role in creating exhibits and providing objects for the Museum of Natural History located at the same address. Admission is free, but a $6.00 donation is suggested. The museum is closed most major holidays.
University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology was first organized in 1922 as part of the zoology department. In 1928, it became an independent group. Mission is conducting fieldwork to collect, preserve, record, organize, understand, and share knowledge. Goals are accomplished by sponsoring fieldwork, promoting fieldwork opportunities to students and other individuals of academia, and making displays for public and future generations to visit.
There are two main research collections. Geographical research pertains to North America, Great Lakes, Latin America, Europe, Near and Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Pacific. Subject research includes ethnobotanical, archaeozoology laboratory, geochemical analytical collections, Latin American ethnohistory library, human osteology collection, and ethnology collection. Carl Guthe (1922) is the man responsible for turning the museum into what it is today. He hired staff with backgrounds in archaeology, ethnology, linguistics and physical anthropology all of who made the extensive collections possible.
4. Peabody Museum
11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138
It is open everyday. Admission is free to museum members of Peabody Museum and Harvard Museum of Natural History as well as those people with Harvard identifications. Massachusetts' residents are also free on Wednesdays from 3-5 P.M. (except summers) and every Sunday from 9-noon.
Peabody Museum opened in 1866. Mission is to continue ongoing dialogue about anthropological exhibits through workshops, conferences, and published works. Professors and students are encouraged to participate in discussions and contribute research findings. Objectives will be met by providing educational opportunities for a wide audience in collaboration with Harvard's Museum of Natural History.
Research projects helped the museum amass millions of objects for its archaeological collection making up a majority of the museum's displays. Items are primarily from the Americas and Eurasia. A small ethnographic compilation represents North America, Africa, and Oceania. The osteological artifacts are from more than 80 countries and 6 continents. Remains range from human bones found in Bolivia to chimpanzee frames found in Liberia.
Researchers will soon have better access to archives. Efforts are being made to reorganize archived materials. Appointments will still be necessary and materials are not permitted to leave the room, but copying non-restricted paper is allowed. Eventually, information from 1867-1890 will appear online.
5. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
MSCO1 1050, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131
It is closed on Sundays, Mondays, and major holidays. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology founded in 1932 was Albuquerque's first public museum. Missions are to increase knowledge and understanding of human cultural experiences in the past and present and to continue gathering and preserving items obtained through fieldwork. Recognizing and understanding that objects are symbolic of human groups and irreplaceable, the museum sponsors individual fieldwork studies and participates in research projects along with other institutions.
Collections primarily represent the Southwestern United States. Other exhibits display artifacts from the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Pacific Islands.
The public has access to one permanent exhibit and two changing exhibits. Guided tours, hands-on kits, and traveling trunk exhibits for classrooms addressing science and social studies standards are all made available through the museum.
6. San Diego Museum of Man
1350 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego CA 92101
It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Members and children under 3 are free. A $6.00 admission is charged for youth (ages 13-17), students with identification, senior citizens (62+), and active military with identification. Children ages 3-12 pay $4.00.
San Diego Museum of Man began collecting material in 1911 for the 1915 Panama-California Expedition. Archaeologist Dr. Edgar Lee Hewett gathered information and objects about the history of man from the Southwest United States, Guatemala and Maya monuments. Dr. Ales Hrdlicka also participated by contributing artifacts from Alaska, Siberia, Africa, and the Philippines. In the mid 20th century, the museum narrowed its focus on the history of man to Western America.
Missions include preserving culture and expanding the human ecology collection. To accomplish both objectives, the museum creates exhibits, devises educational programs, and continues research efforts.
Permanent exhibits represent Maya, Ancient Egypt, Kumeyaay Indians, human evolution, and the human life cycle. Traveling displays also periodically visit the museum and are listed in upcoming events.
The museum works with schools to coordinate curriculum to meet state and national standards. There is also a program with Mexico to support children's education.
7. Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
University of California at Berkeley Kroeber Hall on Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
It is closed for university holidays. Only docent tours are charged a fee.
The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology opened in 1901 and was made possible by the efforts of an educator named Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
Mission is to promote diversity by researching, exhibiting and creating programs about human cultures. Goals are accomplished by sponsoring research projects and through gifts made to the museum.
It is known for holding one of the oldest and largest sets of west anthropological collections. Global records include more than 3.8 million objects. Pieces are from Egypt, Africa, Peru, North America (especially California), Mediterranean, and Oceania.
Collections and data are available to the public in person or online. To access collections privately request an appointment in writing and specify subject area of interest.
From East Coast to West Cost, there are valuable anthropology museums to visit. Harvard to Berkeley, take your pick and learn about world cultures in a fascinating and often hands-on way.