The archaeological research collections consist of artifacts (stone, animal bone, ceramic, floral remains, and metal materials) mainly from Wisconsin and Illinois, although materials from other portions of the United States and Canada are also present. These artifacts number in the millions, although many are small and fragmentary, and the collection comprises roughly 3,500 cubic feet of space. These materials are stored in polypropylene boxes, on a compact shelving system, in a secure collection storage location.

The collection focuses primarily on southcentral and southwestern Wisconsin – the areas of Wisconsin that have historically been of research interest to the Department’s faculty.

The UWAC has also committed to assuming management of all archaeological artifacts that have been recovered from UW-Madison properties. This includes not only the dense cultural resources on the Madison campus, but its additional properties throughout the State of Wisconsin.


The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1990. This law provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return Native American human remains and cultural items (funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony) to lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is fully committed to actively pursue the repatriation and disposition of tribal ancestors and cultural items according to both the published regulations and the spirit of the law. Please visit the UW-Madison campus’ website to learn more about this process.

Federally-Owned Collections

The Department of Anthropology curates collections on behalf of two Federal government agencies: the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Region 3 Office) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers-St. Paul District (Northern Mississippi Valley Region/Division). These collections remain in the control of each respective federal agency but are cared for by the Anthropology Department on an annual fee basis. All fiscal and curatorial responsibilities of collections, including compliance with NAGPRA, are the responsibility of each federal agency.

If you are interested in searching collections specific to one of these federal agencies, please contact the Curator.   


The archaeological research collections are by far the most numerous in the UWAC holdings. Excavations of archaeological sites traditionally yield large amounts of artifacts that are cleaned, analyzed, organized, and properly stored for future research projects.

The archaeological research database for the UWAC is currently being populated. As portions of the database are imported, our intent is to make unrestricted fields available online for public viewing/searching. Stay tuned for a link to this opportunity!