The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.

Accordion List

The Department of Anthropology, located in the Academic Wing of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, houses MA and PhD programs as well as offering an undergraduate major and minor and participating in joint degree programs with other departments and schools. The department includes more than 50 undergraduate majors, more than 70 graduate students, and 17 full-time faculty as well as affiliated faculty, adjunct faculty, and visiting scholars. The University first offered classes in anthropology in 1886, awarded its first PhD in Anthropology in 1909, and formally established an academic department of anthropology in 1912-1913. For many years, degree requirements were designed around the traditional four-fields approach (archaeology, biological and physical anthropology, cultural or social anthropology, and linguistic anthropology), but more recently the department recognized "medical anthropology and global health" and “environmental anthropology” as curricular concentrations. Currently, the department defines its teaching and research of anthropology as a scientifically rooted and actively engaged social science that seeks to understand “1) the historical trajectories that give rise to the different cultural and social forms of the modern world; 2) the logics of biological change, diversity, and health; and 3) the rubrics of social, economic, and political interaction that shape contemporary life worldwide.”

Selection of print and digital materials for anthropological research and learning is not governed solely by needs within the Department of Anthropology's faculty and students. A number of other academic departments, programs, centers, and graduate groups at the University of Pennsylvania support faculty and students whose research involve anthropology and archaeology as well, in particular, the departments of Africana Studies, Classical Studies, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, History of Art, Linguistics, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, South Asia Studies, the graduate group in Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, Center for Ancient Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, Center for Urban Ethnography, and Latin American and Latino Studies.

In addition, staff in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, known more commonly as the Penn Museum, are frequently involved with education and research in these fields at the University. Curators and Associate Curators often hold faculty appointments with teaching responsibilities. As a joint endeavor between the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) offers a range of courses ranging from introductory to advanced for undergraduate and graduate students on the application of scientific techniques to the study of archaeology and biological anthropology. Together with faculty in the Department of Anthropology, the CAAM Faculty Steering Committee and CAAM staff supervise undergraduate students who seek a minor in archaeological sciences and mentor students who are carrying out research-oriented independent studies, honors theses, and graduate work.

Penn Libraries’ collections in support of anthropology, archaeology, cultural heritage management, and Native American and Indigenous Studies – all supported by the anthropology collections funds - are among the nation’s strongest. The Museum Library, located in the Academic Wing of the Penn Museum, serves as a branch library specifically focused on research and teaching in anthropology and archaeology. The facility houses over 145,000 volumes; 2,900 journal titles; and 650 videos and DVDs. Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of anthropological research, most Penn Libraries’ locations on and off the campus hold relevant collections and resources but most notably the libraries within the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, the Fisher Fine Arts Library, and the Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Examples of resources that support anthropological research and teaching include the area studies collections, ethnomusicology collections, and electronic resources that support business studies, health sciences, and physical sciences. Historically, American and western European scholarship has dominated the anthropology collections at Penn Libraries, but its current bibliographers are actively building diverse collections that include scholarly and creative products from countries worldwide and in the original languages of their authors.

1. Chronological

The collection deals with hominid and human societies from the Paleolithic to the present.

2. Formats

Formats include print and digital versions of monographs, serials, exhibition catalogs, and research reports that are released by university departments, government agencies, museums, and professional societies and associations. Streaming video and DVDs of ethnographic films are collected if licensing allows for use in the classroom or circulation to library patrons. Funds also pay for subscriptions to online databases, access to full-text content, and licensed access to streaming video and audio.

3. Geographical

Anthropological collections in Penn Libraries, including the materials held by the Museum Library, are international in scope. There are no geographical restrictions.

4. Language

There are no language restrictions for the collections. Anthropology funds are used for scholarly publications in English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish but may be used for resources published in vernacular languages of the Central and South Americas, Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, although materials in these languages are usually acquired by other funds in consultation with area studies bibliographers.

5. Publication dates

Currently, the Museum Library is acquiring primarily newly-published scholarly literature and film. Retrospective collecting is largely through gifts or the replacement of lost materials. Although the discipline of anthropology has changed significantly in the last century, earlier imprints or works of historiographic significance are considered for acquisition. 

6. Prioritization

Penn Libraries supports a strong, competitive marketplace that ensures a healthy and robust scholarly communication ecosystem that is financially sustainable for all stakeholders. Priority for use of the anthropology funds is given to products of nonprofit, society- or academy-led scholarly publishers, and to alternative funding mechanisms that contribute to sustainable forms of open access or freely accessible public scholarship.

The anthropology funds utilize several domestic and foreign approval plans that cover scholarly, trade, and museum publications. Most new monographs from scholarly publishers are received through approval plans, supplemented by individual selections from vendors' lists, new title announcements, and patrons' requests.

Penn Libraries’ bibliographers collect materials to a research level for anthropology and archaeology overall. Materials related to specific geographic areas — for example, Oceania — may be collected to a slightly lower level that reflects the past, current, and projected short-term future of teaching and research interests at the University. Historic strengths of the collection include:

  • Egyptology
  • archaeology of the ancient Near East
  • Mesoamerican archaeology and linguistics
  • ethnographies for cultural and linguistic anthropology
  • Native North American studies
  • classical Mediterranean archaeology
  • biological and physical anthropology

Funds designated for Anthropology continue to collect to a research level in these areas of strength.

Penn Libraries seeks to strengthen its holdings to a research level in support of the expanding curricula and research in archaeological sciences and applied anthropology, in particular, medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, and business anthropology. Currently, critical studies of cultural heritage issues and museum practices are also in greater demand, not only by University staff but also by University faculty and students because of strong interests in topics such as colonization, institutional biases, and repatriation.

Ethnographic studies and other relevant scholarship in vernacular languages of Central and South America, eastern European countries, Asia, and Africa are the purview of the appropriate area studies librarian and are usually excluded from the plans and selections managed by the anthropology bibliographer. Materials related to the philological, historical, or literary study of ancient languages and literature are usually the purview of the Classical Studies or Judaica Studies bibliographers, but, if the texts are recovered through archaeological projects, archaeological reports and object catalogs might be acquired through the anthropology funds instead. Materials related to architecture and the built environment are usually collected for the Fisher Fine Arts Library, but the anthropology funds and/or the Museum Library as a holding library might be more appropriate in some cases. Folklore is generally collected in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, except when it presents a primarily anthropological perspective.