Skip to main content
Museum and Office of State Archaeology / William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology

William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology

Founded in 1931, the Webb Museum is dedicated to enhancing knowledge about and preservation of our nation’s cultural heritage. The museum’s archaeological collections and research archives provide educational services, practical training, and creative research opportunities for university students and Commonwealth citizens. The Museum strives for excellence in archaeological fieldwork, analysis of archaeological materials, and preservation of cultural heritage. In addition to professional research and student training, staff and faculty expertise are regularly consulted by government agencies, Native Nations, non-profit organizations, and private citizens in the use and display of these significant collections.

News & Events

Save America's Treasures Grant Awarded to the Museum

The University of Kentucky has been awarded a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to improve the environmental conditions of the 10,250 sq. ft. collections storage area of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology. The museum houses a world-renowned archaeological collection documenting Kentucky’s cultural past from more than 254 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including Native American, Revolutionary War- and Civil War-era sites. The improvements, which include insulating the exterior walls and roof framing and installing a new HVAC system to meet temperature and humidity requirements for museum collections, will ensure the preservation of these significant collections for future scholarly research and the mutual benefit of all citizens interested in cultural heritage.

The Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant program was established in 1998 to help preserve nationally significant historic properties and collections that convey our nation’s rich heritage to future generations. The SAT program is funded through the Historic Preservation Fund using non-tax dollar revenue.  In 2020, The National Park Service in partnership with IMLS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, awarded $12,800,000 in SAT grants to 42 preservation and conservation projects in 26 states.  The University of Kentucky’s grant award of $445,327 is the third largest grant administered by IMLS and will be matched an equal amount by UK in non-federal dollars. 


The Museum maintains a small exhibition area in the foyer of Lafferty Hall.  Exhibits are designed and fabricated by anthropology students highlighting items in the museum's collection.  Currently on display:

Poster for Kentucky's First Farmers

  • The Rise of Modern Archaeology in Kentucky
  • Odisha: An Unbroken History of an Enduring People
  • Exploring the Northwest: The Collection of Anthropologist Margaret Lantis (1906-2006)

From the Photo Archives

WPA Archaeology Crew at the Chiggerville Shell Midden, Ohio County, 1938.
William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology, Neg. No. 0726.

Hundreds of unemployed men in Kentucky were put to work by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression excavating archaeological sites for Prof. Webb. The WPA didn't really care how these men were put to work, their only concern was that the projects employ lots of men and take place in areas of high unemployment. The Green River valley in west central Kentucky with its many shell mound sites became one of Webb's largest projects. The shell middens excavated by the WPA are among the most well-known sites in the state and helped define the Archaic Period, pre-agricultural hunting and gathering populations for the mid-continental U.S.  Today, 37 of these sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places comprising a National Historic Landmark district.

Collections Research

The museum encourages professionals, students, and other researches to conduct research on our extensive collections. Access to the collections for research purposes is by application. Contact our interim Museum co-Director, Lisa Guerre and Phil Mink, for more information.

As of January 1, 2020 a research moratorium on all Native American and Native Hawaiian human remains, associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony pertaining thereto, curated at the Webb Museum will be in effect.  This moratorium will remain in effect per site collection until legal compliance under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) has been achieved.  Questions about this moratorium can be directed to the Webb Museum’s NAGPRA Coordinator, Dr. Celise Chilcote-Fricker.