Documented Skeletal Collection
Established in 1984, the Maxwell Museums
Documented Skeletal Collection has grown to include 278 individuals
(as of 2013) encompassing both sexes, all ages, and many
population groups. The skeletal remains are obtained by donation,
either by the individual before death, by the family of a deceased
loved one, or by the Office of the Medical Investigator when the
next of kin cannot be located. Information on the sex, age, population
affinity, and cause of death is available for the majority of these
individuals, so that students and visiting researchers can develop
and test new techniques and theories.
Since 1995, prospective donors or their families
have been asked to provide health and occupational data as well.
This information allows researchers to examine the skeletal manifestations
of particular diseases including degenerative joint disease, lymphoma,
and osteoporosis, as well as the reaction of bone to repetitive
motions and trauma. Recent research has focused on understanding the effects of muscle use on the human skeleton and on how various cancers metastasize to bone.
The importance of the Documented Collection cannot
be overstated. No other institution in the American West has as
large a collection of human skeletal remains with such extensive
demographic data. In addition, the Maxwell Museum’s collection
consists entirely of individuals who passed away within the last
All skeletal remains are kept in the Osteology Repository. The
laboratory and repository are secure spaces, protected by alarm
systems and locks. In addition, individuals granted access to the
skeletal collections are required to treat the remains with respect
and handle bones with extreme care. When skeletal remains from the
Documented Collection are used for teaching purposes, students are
constantly under supervision by their professors or teaching assistants.
Documented Collection skeletal remains may not be removed from the
Anthropology Building, and all analyses and research must be conducted in the
repository or laboratory, unless special written permission is granted.
The Maxwell Museums Documented Skeletal Collection
is available for use by any graduate student, faculty member, or
visiting researcher with a valid, noninvasive research proposal.
Advanced undergraduate students must forward a letter of support
from their anthropology adviser in addition to the research proposal.
A Research Request Inquiry can be submitted
online, or you can reach us at (505) 277-3535.
A research request must be made following the format described in
the Research Request Format. Please allow
at least two weeks for us to process your request before you come
to do research. Photography of individuals in the Documented Collection
is limited, and
permission will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Please indicate
in your research request whether you will need to photograph the