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Collections Highlights

Textiles tell a great deal about the history, daily life, aesthetics, environment, and technology of people all over the world. Used to make clothing, accessories, and domestic goods, textiles vary in complexity from plain and utilitarian, to decorative and ceremonial. Since the Museum's founding in 1869, the Anthropology Division's ethnographic collection has grown to include over 11,000 textiles from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas.
The Hall of Mexico and Central America presents an anthropologically oriented overview of pre-Hispanic culture. The Virtual Hall complements the existing hall by providing visitors and researchers with digital images and detailed information on artifacts and by presenting new information about pre-Hispanic culture gleaned from research taking place since the hall's inauguration in 1970.
The set of over 1000 objects is a compilation of images related to the Buddha and Buddhist practice collected from the AMNH Asian Ethnographic Collections. The project was funded by the Anthropology Division with the support of the Jane Belo Tanenbaum Fund and the Whitney Tibetan Fund.
This rare, complete set of 79 Tibetan medical tangkas was painted by the Nepalese tangka artist Romio Shrestha and his Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese students in Kathmandu during seven years in the 1990s. The paintings were donated to this Museum by Emily Fisher, a Museum Trustee.
Mammalogist Herbert Lang and his assistant James P. Chapin collected and documented zoological, botanical, and anthropological collections and produced painted and photographic images of the natural and human environment. The Anthropology collection that resulted from the Congo Expedition includes carvings made of wood and ivory, incised gourds, bark cloth, metalworking and musical instruments.
American Anthropologist Frederick Starr joined the missionary/explorer Samuel Verner on a collecting expedition to the Congo from 1905-1906. He collected nearly 5,000 artifacts including musical instruments, shields, baskets, masks, stools and games that have become part of the Museum's collection of material culture from the Congo region.
Berthold Laufer, who would become one of the most distinguished sinologists of his generation, led the Jacob H. Schiff expedition to China where he was to make a comprehensive ethnographic collection and to conduct scholarly research on the history and culture of a sophisticated people that had not yet experienced the industrial transformation. Laufer made an extinsive collection of representative objects used in daily life, agriculture, folk religion, medicine, and crafts.
The anthropologists Berthold Laufer, Waldemar Jochelson, Waldemar Bogoras conducted ethnographic research and made collections in Siberia, Manchuria, and on Sakhalin Island in Asia. On the American side of the Bering Strait, their colleagues Franz Boas, George Hunt, John Swanton, and Harlan Smith studied and collected among the Northwest Coast tribes. Directed by Franz Boas, this expedition was financed by Museum president Morris K. Jesup.
Carl Lumholtz, the Norwegian anthropologist and photographer, did field research in Mexico on three AMNH Expeditions in the 1890s. During his 5 years of travel by mule along the 900-mile long Sierra Madre Occidental he studied several northwestern Mexican tribes. At the turn of the last century, he was the foremost authority on these tribes. He published his findings with excellent photographs and drawings in a two-volume set, Unknown Mexico, in 1902.
Otto Finsch, a German ornithologist, collected 1,200 objects during two expeditions to the Melanesian islands of New Guinea, New Britain and New Ireland, and to the Caroline Islands, Gilbert Islands, and Marshall Islands. Finsch also compiled an extensive archive which includes over 3,000 manuscript pages, photographs, drawings, and watercolor paintings.
In an effort to further improve on-line access, a thesaurus has been developed that provides a controlled vocabulary for use in searching across the Anthropology Division's collections. The goal of this thesaurus is to allow users to browse through a hierarchical structure to locate individual objects and to see broader, narrower, and related terms rather than having to perform a tradition search on individual terms.