About Anthropology Collections

Collections Management

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With over 50,000 catalogue records in the Anthropology Department database, proper collections management policies and procedures are essential when tracking down either a collection item or it's associated documentation. Each of these records represents at least one object in the collection, and at times may represent hundreds of items as occurs in our Archaeology collections where one number has been assigned to several hundred lithics or potsherds. Our goal is to successfully find any requested object, in storage, within five minutes.


Proper Collections Management includes conducting consistent and ongoing inventories, updating the Collections database to reflect current understanding of the collections based on research, problem-solving, and consultation, as well as addressing the physical condition of the objects. Rehousing using archival quality support material following Conservation best practices and methods is a key part of the work.

Requests for Information and Access

Can someone tell me what I have?

The Department of Anthropology welcomes inquiries from the general public. Please do not bring the object(s) to the Museum as volunteers at the Information Desk are not able to accept Anthropology materials for review. If you have a question about an object in your care, please consult the instructions for Specimen Identification Requests & Donations. Your inquiry will then be passed along to the appropriate Curator for consideration.

The Department does not provide appraisals on material. Please visit the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, or the International Society of Appraisers to find an appropriate appraiser.


How do I visit the Anthropology Collections?

Research visits to the Anthropology Collections require approval through the Deparment and at least two weeks notice to coordinate a time. Please note that visitation and work schedules for the Collections staff and Curators tend to fill up two months in advance, so more lead time is preferable. Visits will be arranged during regular public hours, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

More than 50,000 objects constitute the Anthropology Collection. As recently described in the book Crossroads of Culture, the collection is mainly comprised of archaeological and ethnological artifacts from North America. The department also curates collections from Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Additional holdings include the 800-piece Ethnological Art Collection and archival photographs and documents. The department is fully committed to compliance with the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and all other national and international laws that impact anthropological objects.

Request for Access Form
Collections Use Agreement Form
Policies for Sensitive and Hazardous Collections
Guidelines for Borrowers

The Department cares for human remains and a number of sensitive items that are religious or ceremonial in nature. We make every effort to respectfully care for these entities, primarily collaborating with the communities from which they came. Human remains are stored in a secure location separate from the rest of the collections. Visits to these sensitive collections are severely restricted and require special permission to access.


Does the Department of Anthropology acquire objects for its Collections?

The Department acquires new items for the collections if the appropriate Curator determines that they fit within the specifications of the Long-Term Collection and Research Plan. This Plan can be located at the main DMNS Collections webpage. The majority of new acquisitions are through donation as acquisition funds are severely limited. If you have a question regarding a potential donation to the Department, please email the Collections Manager photos of the object along with a basic description including information on how, when, and where you acquired the object(s). This information will then be passed along to the appropriate Curator for consideration.


May I borrow material from the Anthropology Collections?

The Department will review requests for loans from the collections on a case by case basis. Please review our Guidelines for Borrowers. Please note that due to the various steps required to complete loan requests, the Department requests at least four months between intial contact and the loan start date. There is no set fee for loans, however there may be costs associated with Conservation work, formal appraisals, object packing and transport.

Collections Management Staff

Melissa Bechhoefer, Anthropology Collections Manager:

Melissa Bechhoefer joined the Museum as the anthropology collections manager and NAGPRA coordinator in 2012. She is responsible for the care, maintenance, and facilitation of the anthropology collections. She has 15 years of collections management and registration experience from her service at the Museum, History Colorado, the National Park Service, and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. She received her M.S. in museum and field studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder and B.A. in archaeology and geology from Oberlin College. Over the last 10 years, Melissa has been managing relatively large collections in both museum and off-site storage settings. Just before starting at the Museum, Melissa worked on the development and design of new museum and collection facilities and was responsible for numerous collections moves, experience that is beneficial as the Museum moves its collections into the new Avenir Collections Center.


Jeff Phegley, Assistant Collections Manager:

Jeff Phegley became the anthropology curatorial assistant in June 2014. This position is funded by a National Endowment for Humanities, American Ethnological Collection Grant. Jeff is archivally rehousing and relocating the anthropology collections to the Museum’s new Rocky Mountain Science Collection Center. Jeff’s previous professional positions include graduate assistant at the David T. Owsley Museum of Art in Muncie, Indiana, exhibits technician at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, head designer and preparator at the Bullseye Gallery in Portland, and printmaking technician at the University of Southampton Winchester School of Art in the United Kingdom.


Volunteers and Interns

The Department of Anthropology receives help from a large group of dedicated volunteers and interns. Some of our volunteers have been with the Museum for over 25 years, while some have just started. The number of people working with the Department varies depending on the number and size of projects. At times we have around 70 volunteers working on the larger grant rehousing project.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Anthropology Collections team please see our current volunteer opportunities

Welcome to the Anthropology Department Collections page. Here you will find information on how we care for the items in our collection ranging from grant funded work to volunteer research and inventory projects.


  • Dominique Alhambra

    Anthropology Collections Manager &
    NAGPRA Coordinator
    [email protected]

  • Jeff Phegley

    Assistant Collections Manager 
    [email protected]

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