All of the searches available on this website are described below. Use the bulleted links to jump to more detailed information.

Reference Lists (Thesauri): When in doubt about what terms are used or how they should be entered for searches, consult the reference lists or choose a term from them to immediately perform a search.

Peoples/Cultures: Search by ethnographic or archaeological culture names, including objects' culture of manufacture (origin), culture of use (the people who used it), or the culture of a photograph's subject.
Artists/Individuals: Search by the names of individuals and organizations associated with objects and photographs, including artists, previous owners, donors, and subjects pictured.
Place: Search by place names connected with items, such as where they were made, collected or excavated or where photographs were taken.


Object Specifics: Search by materials/media, techniques used, or the type of object, such as baskets or masks.

Advanced Search: Search by combining terms from different categories, especially by entering free-text search terms.

Search Results: Learn more about navigating and interpreting the results of your search.

 

How to Search by Peoples/Cultures

 

You can search for objects or photographs based on selections from drop-down lists, from the map, or by entering free text. The map displays names of culture areas and sub-regions of the Western Hemisphere (except for the Hawaiian Islands), including contemporary and historic tribal names and those used by archaeologists. 

STEP 1

Select one or more collection categories.  If you are unsure about which to choose, select "All of the above."

STEP 2

Select a people or culture using the map, by selecting from the drop-down lists, OR by entering a name in the people/culture name field.

STEP 3

Click Search.

HOW THE MAP WORKS

  • The map becomes active only if you select a collections category.  If you are unsure about which to choose, select "All of the above."
  • When you select a value from the map, it automatically fills the corresponding field in the drop-down lists.
  • To see more detailed maps, click on the name of a culture area on the map.  Clicking on the name of the sub-region will bring up a list of cultures.  Click on your choice and then click on the Search button to complete the search. 
  • Search results for map terms will also retrieve items associated with more specific terms that are not listed on the map or in the drop-down lists (for example, Apache will also retrieve Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache items).

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Understanding Peoples/Cultures Data

Our use of culture

Within NMAI's collections information, culture is based on a multi-level, geographically-based hierarchy so that general or more specific terms can be searched. "Culture areas" are regions where peoples are more culturally similar to one another than they are to those outside the area and these come from longstanding usage by anthropologists and others.  Because the number of cultures in any "Culture area" can be quite large, we provide a "Culture Area sub-region" level to facilitate regional searches such as Northern Plains, Pueblo, or Eastern Amazonia. If you are unsure about spelling or where a culture name falls in the geographical hierarchy, consult the reference list for Cultures/Peoples. 

For the names of Native cultures and peoples, NMAI uses names that Native people themselves prefer. Since these may be unfamiliar, we also include common and historically used names in parentheses, such as Tohono O'odham (Papago). In displayed results, terms included in square brackets indicate specific Native communities or reservations, such as Oglala Lakota [Pine Ridge].

Our use of attributed

Within displayed information, the term attributed means that an NMAI staff member assigned a cultural identification, either because the original identification seems to be incorrect or because no culture was ever assigned to an archaeological item. These attributions are a matter of opinion and judgment based on knowledge and research rather than fact.  Attributions include the words probably or possibly to indicate their relative strength, with probably indicating greater confidence.

For objects, NMAI sometimes differentiates between the people who made an object and others who received it in trade or as a gift and used it. In these cases, early catalog information often recorded the name of the people from whom an item was collected rather than who made it. In these cases, we use attributed to designate the people we believe made the item. This also applies to historic trade items, such as guns and knives, which might be identified by a phrase such as Non-Indian; used by the Menominee (Menomini). For searches on culture names, results will include both items made by and used by a specific people.

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How to Search by Artists/Individuals

STEP 1

Select at least one collections category.  If you are unsure about which to choose, select "All of the above."

STEP 2

Enter the name of a Person or Organization then go to Step 3.

OR

Click on a letter from the A-Z Index. Select a name from the Index will retrieve all matching results.

STEP 3

Click Search.

HOW THE INDEX WORKS

  • Names of individuals are alphabetized by surname or by their Indian name. For instance, Sitting Bull is listed under S. Organizations are alphabetized by the first letter of their name but listings seldom start with the in an organization's name. Selecting a name using the index will retrieve all available objects and/or photos associated with that individual or organization for the collection or collections you selected in Step 1.  
  • Because the primary name in our listing may differ from a name you are looking for, you can use your browser's "Find" ("Ctrl" + "F") function to search for a name in the alphabetical index.  Click on the listing to find items associated with that name or click "Back" and enter the name in the search box.

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Understanding Artists/Individuals Data

 

Alternate Names 

Variable spellings, Indian names, non-Indian names, maiden names, and initials have been built into our listings. Each name listing begins with the variation that that person is known to prefer or the name by which they are best known.

To differentiate an individual from others with similar names, listings also include an individual's cultural heritage and life dates, if known. For instance, although Maria Martinez was known within her community by one name and used other names to sign her pottery, most know her by her non-Indian name so her listing is Maria Poveka Martinez (Maria Martinez/Marie/Maria Antonia Montoya), San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1887-1980. Living individuals are listed simply with the date they were born, e.g., Rick Bartow, Mad River Wiyot, b. 1946.

Free-text searches using listed name variations will yield specific results, but searching on just a surname or partial name may retrieve items associated with several individuals. If you only have a partial name, use your browser's "Find" ("Ctrl" + "F") function to search for a name in the alphabetical index.  Only individuals and organizations associated with items on the website are included in the listings, thus you are only guaranteed results by searching on a name found in the listings.

Our use of attributed

Within displays of artist or photographer information, the term attributed means that, based on stylistic or other information, NMAI staff members believe that this is the person who created the work. These attributions should be understood to be a matter of opinion and judgment based on knowledge and research rather than fact.

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Roles of Artists/Individuals

Relationships between objects or photographs and individuals or organizations vary, and within this website, these are defined as follows:

Artist: the person who made the item

Collector: the person responsible for removing an item from the context of its Native users (those who do not have this role but owned the item are referred to as Previous owner). Some individuals are also identified as Possible collector: available information suggests that they may have received the item from a Native person. A search for individuals with the role of Collector will also include Possible collectors.

Commissioner: an individual who asked a Native artist to make a specific item, often according to specifications

Designer: the person who designed the item or directed its creation but who did not actually create it

Donor: the person, organization, or institution that donated or gave an item to NMAI or its predecessor the Museum of the American Indian (MAI)

Excavator: the person responsible for removing an item from its archaeological context

Expedition leader: the person in charge of an expedition, especially where names of other individuals who participated are unknown and a single individual is credited with bringing an item or collection to the Museum

Expedition sponsor: the person or organization that funded or supported an expedition or excavation 

IACB source: the person, organization, or institution that sold, donated, or otherwise transferred items to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board's Headquarters collection, all of which were transferred to NMAI in 2000

MAI agent: an individual who was not technically on MAI's staff but who was empowered to purchase items for the Museum

Manufacturer: the company that made a mass-produced item (e.g., the Pendleton Company for blankets)

NMAI staff: individuals who purchased items on behalf of NMAI, especially during fieldwork and research

Photographer: the person, or sometimes a photo studio, given credit for creating an image

Presenter/funding source: a person who donated funds to MAI or NMAI to purchase an item

Previous owner:  a person, an organization, or an institution that owned the item or had it in their possession before it came to NMAI or its predecessor, the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), or the MAI's founder, George Gustav Heye. Some individuals are also identified as Possible owner: available information suggests that they may have owned an item. Searches for individuals with a role of Owner includes Possible owners.

Seller: a person, an organization, or an institution that sold the item to NMAI, its predecessor the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), or the MAI's founder, George Gustav Heye. Some individuals are also identified as Previous seller: they sold the item to someone before it came to MAI, NMAI, or George Heye. Searches for individuals or organizations with a role of Seller will also include Previous sellers. Galleries, dealers, or auctions that sold items on consignment can also be found by searching with Seller as the role

Subject: a person whose likeness appears in a photograph, painting, sculpture, or other work, or appears on a coin or medal

Some individuals have different roles for different objects, so to search for an individual in combination with a specific role—objects or images of Goyathlay (Geronimo) as the Subject as opposed to objects once owned by him—use the Advanced Search.

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How to Search by Object Specifics

 

You can search for objects based on type, material, or techniques.  However, only one drop-down list can be used for each search and only one term can be entered for a Type or Techniques search. For Materials, more than one term can be entered in the search box. The lists represent hierarchies designed to make NMAI data consistent and more easily searchable. Click here to view our reference lists.  To search on a combination of fields (e.g., a type of object and a particular technique) use the Advanced Search.

STEP 1

Select at least one collections category.  If you are unsure about which to choose, select "All of the above."

STEP 2

Specify the characteristic to search.

STEP 3

Select a value from the drop-drop list.

STEP 4

Click Search.

To clear a term from a field, select the value of the generic name for that field from the drop-down list .  For instance, select "Type" from the top of the Type of Item drop-down list to clear or reset that particular field or "Technique" or  "Material" from those lists.

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Understanding Object Specifics data

Type of Item

Within Type of Item, object types are bundled under their general function. In the drop-down lists, these higher level terms are combined with specific object types they represent to form compound terms like these:

Adornment/Jewelry

Bracelet

Animal Tack and Animal Husbandry

Saddle frame

Food/Beverage

Serving Bowl

Food Gathering and Preparation

Sap bucket

Hunting/Fishing/Warfare

Bow and arrow

Transportation Items: Baby carriers

Cradleboard wrapper

Some items occur under multiple higher level terms as in these examples:

Made-for-Sale items and Souvenirs

Gourd

Works of Art (Other)

Gourd

Masks and Masking

Mask

Sculpture

Mask

An inclusive search across upper levels of a hierarchy is possible by entering a simple term such as Mask or Sculpture in the "Type of object" field on the Advanced Search tab.

Techniques

Within Technique, a search can be carried out using an upper level term or an individual technique.  For example, a search on Beaded (general term) will retrieve all objects made using various beadworking techniques.

Beaded

Bead-wrapped

Edge beaded

Gourd stitch/Brick stitch/Netted beadwork

Lazy/lane stitch beadwork

Loom beadwork

Overlay beadwork

Basketry: Body Techniques

Coiled

Netted

Plaited

Twined 

Basketry: Body Techniques: Plaited

Double-woven

Hexagonal-plaited

Twill-plaited

Wicker-plaited

Materials

Materials have been organized by overarching terms so a search can be carried out with higher levels terms such as Beads, Wood, or Metal that will yield the result of a more specific search.  For example, a search on Beads will retrieve all objects made from various types of beads:

Beads

Bone hairpipe/hairpipes

Brass beads

Glass bead/beads

Shell beads

Metal

Silver

Stainless steel

Steel

Tin

Metal items

Iron fish hooks

Iron point

Metal bells

Metal brooches

Wood

Alder

Cherry wood

Wood: Maple

Curly maple

Maple

When in doubt, refer to the text copies of the individual hierarchies here.

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How to Search by Place

 

STEP 1

Select at least one collections category or "All of the above categories."

STEP 2

Enter a place name in the search box OR select a place name from the drop-down lists.

STEP 3

Click Search.

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Understanding Places Data

 

Types of Places include:

  • Political place names: country; state/province/department/territory; county/parish/district; city/town (includes Indian reservations)
  • Geographical place names:  rivers, islands, valleys, mountains, geographical areas, etc.
  • Archaeological site names

Geographical names and archaeological site names can only be searched using the search box.

Place names are those current in 2007/2008.

Inferred following a place name means that museum staff have inferred that the item came from that place; catalog data did not include a place name or was not specific.

Some items may show multiple countries or counties. The original place data were not specific enough to identify a single country/county.

 

Tips for using the search box

  • Use the search box to search for any type of place name.
  • Entering more than one word retrieves places that include ALL of the words entered.
  • To search for an exact phrase, use quotes ("Navajo Reservation")
  • If a search yields no results, try entering fewer words.
  • Do not use abbreviations (enter Saint, not St). The only abbreviations used are USA and US Virgin Islands.
  • Place names are usually in the languages of their respective countries but also include common English variations (Amazon River and Rio Amazones). If a place search using English yields no results, try entering only the proper name (enter San Lucas, not Cape San Lucas).
  • For English place names, American spelling is used (enter harbor, not harbour).
  • You do not have to add accents to non-English names.
  • Many alternative spellings have been included in the places data, but if a search yields no results, try a different spelling.

 

Tips for using the drop-down lists

  • Drop-down lists are a hierarchy of only political place names (no geographical names or archaeological sites).
  • Start by selecting a place name at the highest level you know.
  • Work down through the lower-level lists to narrow your search.
  • Selecting a country in the drop-down list limits the selections below to political place names in that country.
  • Values in the lists represent places on the website, not all possible values.
  • You can leave any level blank. Because some Indian reservations are located in more than one state or county, you may want to leave State and County blank. Select a reservation name in the City/Town drop-down list.
  • To leave a level blank or reset any drop-down list, select the level name (Country, State/Province/Department, etc.) from the top of the list.

What drop-down list levels mean

Country: current name of the country.

State/Province/Department/Territory: first-level political subdivisions of a country. In the USA, these are states; in Canada, they are provinces and territories.

County/Parish/District: second-level political subdivisions of a country. In the USA, these are counties, parishes (Louisiana), and Alaskan Native Corporations (as defined by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971).

City/Town: names of populated places, including Indian reservations/reserves/indigenous areas.

Things to Remember

For archaeological sites, use the search box.

For geographical place names, use the search box.

The drop-down lists include only political place names.

Indian reservations appear in the City/Town drop-down list.

If your search yields no results, try a difference spelling or use fewer words.

To search for exact phrases in the search box, use quotes.

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How to perform an Advanced Search

 

Although this search allows you to find objects and photographs using multiple criteria, advanced searching is based primarily on free text with two drop-down lists: "Date of photograph" and "Role of individual/organization". For all other fields, you must specify the search term(s).

Limitations

You cannot search for records where a term is equal to either one value OR another. In other words, you cannot use the Advanced Search to find all objects associated with the United States OR Canada.

STEP 1

Select at least one collection. Note that certain combinations of categories and fields will result in no records being returned. For example, if you select Photographic Collections for your search but enter a search term for "Type of Object," you will not get any results.  If you are unsure about which to choose, select "All of the above."

STEP 2

Enter the term or terms in each field you wish to use. Remember that certain combinations of fields, no matter the term or terms used, will result in no records being returned. For example, if you enter "Type of object" =Basket and "Object materials/media" = Stone, you will not get any results.

STEP 3

Click Search.


HOW FREE TEXT SEARCHING WORKS

  • This search function combines every term you specify to form a complex query. If you enter a culture, a type of object, and a place, the system will search for records where the Culture = the term you entered AND the Type of object = the term you entered AND the Place = the term you entered.
  • If the term you specify in one field is not present, your search will not retrieve any records even if there are records that match others terms you entered.
  • When entering more than one search term in the same field, do not use the word and and do not include quotation marks. Use a single space between multiple terms.

EXAMPLE

Correct entry:

  • glass bead

Incorrect entries:

  • glass and bead
  • "glass" and "bead"
  • "glass and bead"

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Understanding Advanced Search Data

Note that some search fields apply only to ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, and MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS, while others only apply to PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS. This is obvious in the field name: if it says "object," you will search the first three categories. If it says "photo" or "photograph" you will search only the photographic collections. Entering a search term that applies only to ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS in a "Photo" field will yield no results. To search across collections, enter search terms in fields that do not specify "object" or "photo."

Culture: ethnographic or archaeological culture name, including the culture of manufacture (origin) for an object, the culture where the object was collected or used, or the culture of subject for a photograph. To read more about searching by Peoples/Cultures, click here.

Photo description (e.g., man on horse): the description of the subject matter of a photograph. Searching on this field will only return results if you selected PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Type of object (e.g., basket): standard object types or names. These terms are referred to in other parts of the site as "Type of Item," and "Object Name." Read more about searching by Object Specifics here.  Searching on this field will only return results if you select ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS, or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Type of photograph (e.g., glass plate negative): "type" or "format" of the photograph. Searching on this field will only return results if you select PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Title of work: title of the object or photograph.  This field may also contain informal titles such as those of kachinas or Navajo textiles. Searching on this field returns results regardless of which collections category you choose in Step 1.

Object materials/media (e.g., feather, bead): standard terms representing the materials or media used to make objects. To read more about searching by Object Specifics, click here.  Searching this field return results only if you select ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS, or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Object technique (e.g., carved, painted): standard terms describing how objects were made. To read more about searching by Object Specifics, click here.  Searching this field will only return results if you select ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS, or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Place or site name: where the object was made or obtained, or where the photograph was taken. Searching this field will return results regardless of which collections category you choose in Step 1. To read more about searching by Place, click here.

Date of photograph (by period): when a photo was taken. In this field you can search within a predetermined range of years. When you make a selection, it will automatically fill the "Date of photograph (by year)" field below. Searching this field will only return results if you select PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Date of photograph (by year): when a photograph was taken. You can choose a range of years or a specific year. If you choose a single year, you must enter the year in both boxes (e.g, from 1879 to 1879). You can also search for photos before or after a particular date: if you only enter a year in the left-hand box, you will retrieve photographs taken that year or any year thereafter. The opposite happens by entering a year in the right-hand box. Searching this field only returns results if you have selected PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS or ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES in Step 1.

Name of individual/organization: names of individuals or organizations associated with an object or photograph. Searching this field will return results regardless of which collections category you choose in Step 1. To read more about searching by Artist/Individuals, click here.

Role of individual/organization: the role of an individual or organization associated with an object or photograph. Use this field only when entering a name into the "Name of individual/organization" field. Searching this field will only return results if there is a matching role for the collection/s that you have chosen in Step 1, i.e. if you choose ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS and then enter Photographer in "Role," you will not get any results. To read more about searching by Artist/Individuals, click here.

Catalog Number: for ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, and MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS: enter any version of the NMAI Object Catalog Number. For example:
2/3456
023456.000
023456

For PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS, enter the NMAI Image Number which generally has the format of 5 digits preceded by a letter referring to a negative (N), slide (S), transparency (T), lantern slide (L), or print (P). For example:
N12345
T34214

Selecting the collections category ALL OF THE ABOVE CATEGORIES will return results regardless of which catalog number format is entered.

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Viewing your Search Results

 

Choose from the buttons in the upper right corner of your screen to switch between list or grid view. List view displays all of the caption data but only one image per row. Grid view displays more images per row, but may truncate some of the caption data.

Choose to show 25, 50, or 75 records per page in the bottom right corner of your screen.

Click on any image or caption heading to switch to a full "Detail" view.

Sorting your results

Catalog Number: sorts on the NMAI Object Catalog Number and NMAI Image Number. Since Image Numbers have letters at the beginning, Objects list before Photographs in cross-collections results.

Culture: sorts first on culture of manufacture in Object records and then on culture of the subject in Photographic records. Therefore, in cross-collection results, you will see Objects sorted first, followed by Photos.

Place: sorts on Country first, followed by State, County, City/Town, and Site Name. In cross-collection results, Objects and Photos will be sorted together.

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Understanding the Data in your Search Results

 

Strength of the Data

The information presented on this website consists of "positive information": it is a record of something said to have been found or collected in a particular place at a particular time. The absence of a record for a specific kind of object does not necessarily mean that it does not exist. Instead, it may mean that that type of object was not collected, that it is not in NMAI collections, that the object's or image's sensitivity precludes us from providing information, or that we have not yet finished correcting or updating the information. Like those of any other museum, the NMAI collections are strong in some areas and weak in others: users should not rely on the NMAI collections as the definitive statement on every kind of object or image representing Native people of the Western Hemisphere. We hope that you will consider the NMAI collections as just one resource for your research.

Getting Unexpected Results

Because the Advanced Search includes so many options and variables, specific combinations of search terms may effectively cancel one another out and yield no results. For example, entering beaded in both "Photo description" and "Object technique" in the same search means that you are searching for photos that are beaded and objects that are beaded so your search will fail to produce any results because both criteria must be true for a record to appear in the results.

Note that some search fields apply only to ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS, ETHNOGRAPHIC ITEMS, and MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ARTS, while others only apply to PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTIONS. This is obvious in the field name: if it says "object," you will search the first three categories. If it says "photo" or "photograph" you will search only the photographic collections. Entering a search term that applies only to ARCHAEOLOGICAL ITEMS in a "Photo" field will yield no results. To search across collections, enter search terms in fields that do not specify "object" or "photo." To learn more about fields with controlled terminology, click here.

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