SUAC's origins predate the university itself. They reflect cultural encounters and broad intellectual trends, as well as the unique history of Stanford University.
Stanford sits on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, comprised of all known surviving American Indian lineages of the San Francisco Bay region traced through Missions Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose and that were also members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. This land is of great importance to the Ohlone people. Consistent with our values of community and diversity, we acknowledge benefit from use and occupation of this land and strive to honor and make visible the university’s historic and ongoing relationships to Ohlone and other Indigenous peoples.
SUAC's diverse holdings originated in the late 19th century with the Stanford family’s personal collections. The collections greatly expanded after the founding of the University and University Museum (now the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University) in 1891. Acquisitions remained idiosyncratic and opportunistic throughout the 19th century.
As colonial expansion dispossessed tribes across the country, California’s dynamic social networks shaped new economic and political power, multicultural conflict, strategic tribal survivance, and collecting cultures—including at Stanford.
Post-World War II
After World War II, Stanford’s then-new Anthropology Department made increasing use of the university’s anthropological collections in teaching and research. During this time, the holdings grew through faculty and alumni donations, as well as campus and regional archaeology projects.
Post 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
A substantial portion of the University Museum’s anthropological collection was formally transferred from the Cantor Center for Visual Arts (formerly the University Museum) to the Anthropology Department after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
This collection of archaeological and ethnographic artifacts and art, combined with campus and area archaeology assemblages, is now held by the Stanford Archaeology Center and stewarded by SUAC.