The mission of the Matson Museum of Anthropology is to support the teaching, research and outreach activities of the Department of Anthropology and the College of the Liberal Arts at The Pennsylvania State University. Our goal is to educate students about the rich diversity of contemporary and ancient human cultures, the history of human evolution, and scientific explanations for human cultural and biological variability.
The Museum promotes the appreciation for human cultural and biological diversity among the public through its exhibit program and educational tours. The Museum displays archaeological objects from around the world, including Mesopotamia, Mexico and Pennsylvania, and items used by contemporary cultures from Latin America to Afghanistan. Of particular note is the museum’s unique collection of one-hundred-year-old pottery made in villages around the world. There are also exhibits that explore human evolution with replicas of our ancestor’s bones and depict what can be learned from human skeletal remains found in archaeological sites or crime scenes.
In addition, the Museum serves as a repository for the curation of archaeological, ethnological, and human biological specimens at Penn State. The Museum maintains teaching exhibits and collections for use in undergraduate and graduate courses. Museum personnel assist instructors in devising active learning approaches to enhance anthropology classes. They also supervise graduate and undergraduate students in museum exhibition, collections management, and research projects.
Anthropological collections held by the Department of Anthropology were first put on display in the mid-1960s. The location of the museum shifted several times on campus until 1987 when the museum was moved into its present location in Carpenter Building. In honor of Dr. Frederick Matson, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Anthropology, the museum was renamed the Matson Museum of Anthropology in 1991. The museum benefits from the expertise of the anthropology faculty whose offices are in the same building, while the department enjoys the use of exhibits and collections.