Museum Anthropology

Museum Anthropology cross-cuts all of the sub-disciplines in anthropology. Some individuals working in this area are based out of academic positions in colleges and universities, while others work within a museum setting. Museum anthropologists also work from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Areas of specialization include:

  • collections-based scholarship;
  • the curation and exhibition of cultural, archaeological, linguistic or biological collections;
  • research which contextualizes museums as social institutions (past and present);
  • material culture studies;
  • and cultural heritage/tourism.

Museum Anthropology also tends to be cross-disciplinary with areas such as history, art history, Indigenous studies, folklore, and the natural sciences.

For those working within museums, Museum Anthropology tends to take on a more applied angle: reaching the public and crafting multi-vocal exhibition narratives. Similarly, for those academics who train museum professionals, the focus is on education, outreach and learning to balance the needs/desires of various stakeholders.


There are a variety of career paths in Museum Anthropology. Most tend to be outside of academia, and many require some form of advanced degree. Some anthropology departments in the U.S. have M.A. programs in Museum Anthropology or may have an applied anthropology track that allows students to focus on museum work. Students should be aware that there are a variety of career paths within State and Federal agencies.

Some careers in this field include:

  • Curatorial Assistant
  • Docent
  • Exhibition Coordinator/Design
  • Interpretive Ranger
  • Museum Administration
  • Museum Curator
  • Museum Educator
  • Museum Technician
  • Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Coordinator
  • University Professor

Suggested anthropology courses

  • The Indians of North America (311)
  • Material Worlds of the Middle Ages (318)
  • Material Life and Culture in Europe 1500-1800 (319)
  • Archaeological Field Methods (321)
  • Introduction to Archaeology Research Design and Methods (322)
  • Archaeological Survey Methods (324)
  • Archaeological Methods Laboratory (325)
  • The Archaeology of Ethnicity in America (327)
  • The Maya (328)
  • Anthropology of Race (343)
  • North American Prehistory (381)
  • Environmental Anthropology (383)
  • Slavery’s Material Record (384)
  • Topics in Anthropology: (390)
    • Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean
    • A course taught at the Field Museum by a museum curator
  • Archaeology, Ethics, and Contemporary Society (391)
  • Advanced Archaeological Field Methods (396

Suggested related courses

  • Introduction to African Art (Art History 220)
  • Ancient Art (Art History 310)
  • Art of Africa (Art History 386)
  • Special Topics in Non-Euro-American Art (Art History 389)
  • Special Topics in Arts of Asia and the Middle East (Art History 389)
  • Museums (Art History 395)
  • Early Western Civilization (Classics 210)
  • Classical Greece (Classics 211)
  • Roman Civilization (Classics 212)
  • American Cultural History (History 317)
  • A History of American Society (History 321)
  • Technology: History, Society, and Economy (History 375)
  • Topics in the Humanities (Humanities 301)
  • Sociology of the Arts (Sociology 350)

Relevant fieldwork and internships

Related minors and academic programs