The archaeological collections consist of material that documents the prehistory of human occupation, primarily of the Southwest and Rocky Mountain-Plains regions of North America, in addition to comparative collections from Central America, South America and Old World cultural areas. The collections are strong in material from the La Plata district of Colorado/New Mexico, Gobernador "pueblitos," Yellow Jacket, and the Olsen-Chubbuck Paleoindian site. The Earl H. Morris collection of Southwestern pottery is an especially outstanding research collection.
The ethnological collections include objects from the Southwest and Rocky Mountain-Plains regions of North America, as well as comparative material from around the world. The Joe Ben Wheat Southwestern Textile collection is one of the most significant in the world. Additional collection strengths include Navajo and Pueblo silverwork and the Harold Case Collection of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara material culture and clothing.
The archival collections contain original research documentation and a photographic image collection. The Anthropology Section serves as a repository for the anthropological papers of Earl H. Morris, Anna O. Shepard, and Joe Ben Wheat. The image collection includes glass and nitrate negatives, documentation prints, 35mm color slides, color transparencies, copy negatives, and 35mm strip negatives. The archival collections are fragile and, therefore, are not available for loan.
The educational collection (also called the E-collection) consists of archaeological and ethnological materials primarily from the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions of North America. Most of this material has no specific provenience documentation and is available for educational programming, including hands-on use. Since this collection is intended for hands-on use, it is subject to different conservation requirements than the permanent collections. There are approximately 400 objects in the E-collection.
The type collection is ceramic sherds of primarily North American Southwest and Plains proveniences intended for use in the museum.
The Anthropology Section is a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) repository. The CRM collection consists of artifacts and related documentation generated by contract and government archaeologists under state and federal permits. These collections are curated for a fee at the discretion of the Anthropology Section based on the criteria of research value, regional significance, and available repository space.