As early as 1885 the University of Missouri began accepting gifts of ethnographic materials. In 1902 these materials were organized into the Museum of Ethnology, under the auspices of the Department of Sociology. From 1932 to 1938 the holdings were known as the Anthropology Collection; the name Museum of Anthropology was formally adopted in 1939.

The scope of the Museum’s collections include anthropological, archaeological and ethnographic objects which may broaden the understanding of human behavior, past and present. The extant collection includes objects from subject areas such as archery, Missouri prehistory and cultural life in the 19th and 20th century, and Native American material cultures. The museum also holds small collections of ethnographic material from South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Associated with these subject areas are an anthropological and archery library as well as Missouri archaeological archives generated through the American Archaeology Division (AAD).

Since its founding in 1939, the Museum of Anthropology has served the research and teaching needs of the University of Missouri, provided exhibitions and programs for the general public, and served as an archaeological curation facility for the state of Missouri.

Ethnographic Collection

The Museum's ethnographic collection documents historical cultures of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The collection, which numbers thousands of individual items, comprises materials donated by University researchers, students, and alumni, as well as members of the general public in search of a home for their personal collections. Many materials were also generated from Museum-sponsored collecting expeditions.

Approximately half of the Museum's ethnographic collection comprises items representing historic native cultures of North America. The Native American collection includes several thousand items from Arctic, Southwestern, Plains, Northwest Coast, and Eastern Woodlands groups. This includes objects from the Inuit, such as skin garments and bone and ivory tools; Plains beaded and feathered items; and Southwestern pottery, basketry, and kachina dolls.

Objects from other parts of the world include domestic items and apparel from Central America and Mexico; hunting equipment, tools, weapons and personal items from various areas of Africa and Southeast Asia; Japanese ivory carvings; and Chinese carvings of jade, agate, and other precious stones.

Archaeological Collection

The Museum's massive archaeological collection results from federally mandated cultural resource management projects and myriad projects conducted by university faculty and students. The Museum has also long functioned as a repository for collections donated by members of the Missouri Archaeological Society, as well as for other personal archaeological collections. The majority of the Museum's archaeological holdings are managed by the American Archaeology Division's Curation office.

The archaeological collections are recognized nationally as being among the most important holdings of prehistoric material in the country. Containing millions of individual items, the archaeological collection is systematic in scope and spans the era of human occupation and entire geographic reach of present day Missouri (from ca. 8000 BC on). Major collections include those generated from excavations in Truman Reservoir in west-central Missouri and in Clarence Cannon Reservoir (Mark Twain Lake) in northeast Missouri. Collections from the seven Bootheel counties adjacent to the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri are also extensive. Materials in the Museum's collections include ceramics, lithics, metal, and faunal and botanical remains from a spectrum of functional site types, site sizes, and dates of occupation. Foremost among those are materials that postdate AD 700 and include remains from the Late Woodland and Mississippian periods. Information accompanying the archaeological collections includes an estimated 600 linear feet of documentary material (e.g., maps, charts, plans, excavation forms, reports, and photographs).

Notable items among the archaeological collections include the Jaguar Gorget, over 300 complete or restorable ceramic vessels, any number of well-made worked stone pieces (including the Lilbourn Mace), silver cones from contact-period sites, copper implements, and ceramic effigies of various kinds of animals.

In addition to the Missouri material, the Museum also holds small collections of archaeological material from other states and regions of the world, teaching collections, and the renowned Eichenberger collection of expert replicas of many of the world's most significant archaeological pieces.

Historical Collection

The Museum's historical collection comprises a variety of 19th- and 20th-century Euroamerican materials. Included is an assemblage of American carpentry, household, and agricultural tools from MU's College of Agriculture; a collection of Depression glass; Pamplin clay pipes; horse equipment; gun parts, accessories, and gunsmithing tools; and pottery and other materials.

Foremost among the Museum's Euroamerican materials is the Pattrick Collection. The Pattricks, a Missouri family that settled in Randolph County in 1830, have donated hundreds of late 19th- and early 20th-century materials to the Museum over the past 50 years. The collection includes clothing and household goods, children's toys and games, books, photographs and sheet music, and many other items. This collection of Americana represents a broad slice of cultural history in the heart of America. These materials chronicle not only the day-to-day activities of a specific family but the activities of the country as a whole.

Special Collections

Grayson Archery Collection
The Grayson Archery Collection and Library is the private collection of Dr. Charles E. "Bert" Grasyon.  Dr. Grayson began donating his collection to the University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology in the early 1990s. With over 5,500 pieces covering six continents, the collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world.

Nancy Morejón
A collection of Afro-Romance literature, this collection is can be viewed in the Anthropology Library.

Eichenberger Cast Collection
A listing of items in the Museum's Eichenberger archaeological cast collection.