The department's anthropology collection consists of more than 8,000 objects from around the world. These items are managed by Bryn Mawr's Art and Artifact Collections department. Selected items from the anthropology collection have been made available to scholars from around the world. All of the department's objects are available to students for research projects as well. Pieces from the collection are exhibited and used as visual aids in teaching courses in archaeology (stone tool technology), physical anthropology, and material culture.
The largest collection is the William S. Vaux Collection, of which the prehistoric European stone tools and American Indian archaeological and ethnographical material are especially significant. Other important collections include the Twyeffort-Hollenback Collection of Southwest Pottery and Native American Ethnography; the George and Anna Hawks Vaux '35, M.A. '41 Collection of Native American Basketry; the Ward and Miriam Coffin Canaday '06 Collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics and Peruvian textiles; and pieces collected in Oceania by retired anthropology professor Dr. Jane Goodale.
Frederica de Laguna, founder of the Bryn Mawr College Anthropology Department and originator of the collections, has donated many archaeological and ethnographic objects which she collected during the 1950's and 1960's while conducting ethnographic research in Alaska and Southwest United States.
In the course of study, anthropology majors have the opportunity to do field work in a variety of settings. For example, students have recently worked with departmental faculty on archaeological excavations in Alaska, and they have undertaken ethnographic study in Kenya among street children and in Indonesia on medical anthropology. Closer to home, especially during their senior year, students have worked among Bryn Mawr and nearby Philadelphia populations studying such topics as ethnic identity, ritual, gender roles, health practices, religion, law, aging, and the life cycle. Physical anthropological projects have included direct work with skeletal remains at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Additional course offerings in anthropology are available to Bryn Mawr students at Haverford College, Swarthmore College, and the University of Pennsylvania. The department regularly has a small number of research associates in residence who on occasion lecture or teach classes and who provide opportunities to the department for students to work with them on their research projects.