About the Peabody Museum

The Peabody Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and aspires to maintain the highest standards of collections care, interpretation, and education.

Founded in 1866 by philanthropist George Peabody, the Peabody Museum is among the oldest anthropology museums in the world, and still occupies its original nineteenth-century building.  The museum’s mission and operations, however, have changed considerably over the past one hundred and fifty years.

The Peabody is well known for its significant collections of archaeological and ethnographic materials from around the world, many of which were acquired during the era of European and American expansion, exploration, and colonization.

The collections number some 1.2 million objects from cultures around the world, with a focus on the Americas. Highlights include:

  • The only surviving collection of objects acquired from Native American people during the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–1806
  • Early collections from the Pacific Islands, especially Hawaii, Tonga, and Fiji, acquired by Boston sea captains during the China Trade
  • Extensive archaeology collections from pre-contact North America, especially from the Greater Southwest and the Midwest 
  • One of the world’s premier collections of Maya and other Mesoamerican artifacts, sculpture, and archival sources
  • More than 5,000 ancient Peruvian textiles
  • A photographic archive of some 500,000 images of world cultures

The Peabody Museum has an active program of exhibitions and public programs,and offers structured educational activities for school groups. The museum

  • Offers exhibitions, workshops, symposia, and publications on topics relating to human evolution, history, and culture, including contemporary issues;
  • Serves a wide public audience through exhibits, programs, and educational experiences;
  • Facilitates and encourages the use of collections by faculty, students, and outside researchers, including descendant communities;
  • Is a member of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture (HMSC) consortium;
  • Partners with the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP), the Harvard Art Museum, and others to develop programs that enrich the campus community and enhance access to collections; and
  • Engages in research and participates in professional museum and academic communities


Encounters with the Americas gallery.