Learn more about our department and its history at the Academy.
The permanent research collection of the Department of Anthropology consists of more than 16,000 objects, most of which are ethnographic. These pieces originate from around the globe, documenting the diversity of human cultures and the ways in which we humans have adapted to Earth's varying environments. Current strengths of the collection are holdings from the U.S. Southwest and the Pacific Islands, and basketry from California. The Department actively collects material of the indigenous cultures of western North America (exclusive of Mexico) and of the Pacific Rim, including all Pacific islands, Australia and East Asia. Earlier years of collecting have yielded both ethnographic and archaeological materials from East Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Central and South America.
Anthropology Collection Database
The entire Anthropology collection is available for virtual viewing via our searchable online database. The database includes digital images of the entire collection. Objects with older images may have lower quality photographs. Rephotographing these pieces is an ongoing project, with additional images added as they are produced.
Accuracy and Limitation of Liability
The Department of Anthropology makes every attempt to provide reliable identification and descriptions of the objects in its collection, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these data. The Department has been collecting ethnographic materials and producing catalog records since 1853. Over the years, many people have worked on researching and further identifying objects in our collection. Additionally, all of the documentation regarding our earliest collections was lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire, although parts of the collections themselves were salvaged. Some catalog records contain very little information, sometimes no more than a catalog number and name of object; other records are considered complete in their descriptions and identification. There are bound to be inaccuracies and misspellings, but we feel that the benefits of searching our entire database far outweigh the lack of complete information and/or any errors that may be present. If errors are found, we would greatly appreciate it if you would bring it to our attention. You may send your comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Positive identification should be verified by direct inspection of the objects themselves whenever possible. The California Academy of Sciences and its staff are not responsible for damage, injury or loss due to the use of these data. The collection staff of the Department of Anthropology will be happy to provide additional information, if available. Contact the Anthropology Collection Manager with inquiries.
The data and images in the Anthropology collection database are being revised and added to on a daily basis. The Web version of our database is updated monthly, providing you with the most current information possible.
The site provides access to collection data housed in the Department of Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences. These data and all images within them are owned and copyrighted by the California Academy of Sciences, © 2023, with all rights reserved. The data and images may be used freely by individuals and organizations for purposes of basic research, education and conservation. These data and images may not be used for commercial or for-profit purposes without the express written consent of the California Academy of Sciences, and may not be repackaged, resold, or redistributed in any form without the express written consent of the Department of Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences.
Use of the data or images in publications, dissertations and theses, or other scientific reports, should be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the Department of Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences, as the source for the information, and the Department must be notified. Written permission must be obtained for all publication use and a complimentary copy of any publications resulting from the use of these data and images must be provided to the Department of Anthropology. This helps us to document the use of specimens as “vouchers” in the literature. It also helps us to justify continued funding for the collections so that these resources remain available into the future. Publication fees are charged, but may be waived upon request for scientific and not-for-profit educational uses.
Accessing the Anthropology Collection
The Anthropology collection is available for study by qualified researchers and students by advance appointment only. To determine if our collection contains any objects which might prove useful to your research, please visit our online collection database which is searchable by culture, geography, object type, and other selected criteria.
If you would like to arrange a visit to view specific objects and/or related documentation, please contact the Anthropology Collection Manager. Please include a CV, brief research proposal and list of the objects and/or types documentation you would like to view. For students, also include a letter of support from a faculty member, on institutional letterhead.
Borrowing Objects from the Anthropology Collection
Objects from the Anthropology collection are available for loan to accredited institutions for public exhibitions and limited educational use. Please visit our online collection database to search for objects by culture, geography, object type, and other selected criteria.
If you would like to arrange to borrow objects from the collection, contact the Anthropology Collection Manager. Final approval of any loan is at the discretion of the Collection Manager and/or Curator of the Department of Anthropology.
Requests for permission to publish are required in writing. Downloadable PDF forms are available for Permission to Publish Photographic Materials and for Permission to Publish Written Materials. Fees may apply. Please print out the appropriate page, fill in all requested data, and send it to the address listed at the bottom of the form. For further assistance, please contact the Anthropology Collection Manager.
The Department of Anthropology is in full compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3001 et seq.). We welcome additional inquiries and communication regarding repatriation from all peoples around the world, whether or not such claims would fall under NAGPRA. Please feel free to peruse our collection database for objects from your cultural group and/or geographic region. For inquiries, assistance and additional information, please contact the Anthropology Collection Manager.
Top image: 1906 survivors from the Anthropology collection. Left to right: Acoma jar (CAS 0595-0001), Karuk or Shasta club (CAS 0143-0537), Central Highlands Mexico diety figurine (CAS 0434-0026), Japanese helmet (CAS 0146-0043A), Gilbert Islands shark tooth dagger (CAS 0143-0166), Mayan jar with rattle (CAS 0227-0157), Hawaiian poi pounder (CAS 0143-0523).
Our searchable online database features the entire Anthropology collection, with over 16,000 objects, all of which include digital images.
From Hopi katsinam to Japanese folk toys, our collection includes objects from around the globe.
Catalogs of select portions of the Academy's Anthropology collection have been produced over the years. Southwestern Indian pottery and jewelry, Coptic textiles, and Polynesian tapa cloth have all been featured.
View online exhibits featuring objects from the Academy's Anthropology collection.
The Department of Anthropology houses a collection of hominin fossil and comparative casts that are available for reference by visiting researchers and students.
How to access our collections, donate objects, apply for an internship, and more.