The mission of the Anthropology Museum at the University of California, Davis is to promote understanding and appreciation of humanity and nature. Through preservation, documentation and organization of our collections pertaining primarily to non-western civilizations of the past, we make our holdings accessible to researchers at the University and beyond who are working to advance and communicate knowledge about people and the environment. Through partnerships, preservation, study and interpretation of information, we build exhibits and programs that encourage people of all ages to explore the diversity of human adaptation; think critically about how humans are connected to each other and to the environment; and become stewards of both our natural and cultural resources.
In 1962, Vice President Harry R. Wellman authorized funding for the purchase of the Clinton Hart Merriam Ethnographic Basketry Collection for the Department of Anthropology, with the understanding that the baskets would form the nucleus of a departmental research museum at Davis. Since then, the museum has grown and now maintains collections of archaeological, ethnographic, biological, and archival materials as part of its teaching, research, and public service mission. The collections are maintained in perpetuity and made available to qualified individuals, institutions, or organizations for research, education, and/or temporary display purposes.
Archaeological research from UC Davis generated many collections that are now curated by the Department of Anthropology Museum. Many of these collections originate from federal lands from the surrounding area as well as parts of the Great Basin. The Museum is a federally recognized repository charged with caring for archaeological collections under 36 CFR 79, the regulations mandating the Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections.
Starting in 1994, the museum has offered an internship program that gives students at UC Davis the opportunity of working in a museum setting for course units. This program has been an educational and career-building experience for many students, with graduates in museum and anthropology-related careers. The museum has also hosted a number of instructional events and classes, including instruction in basketry weaving from the renowned weaver Mabel McKay and basketry analysis courses with basketry scholar Ralph Shanks.