When MNA was founded, research was one of the pillars of the institution. MNA has continued this role throughout its history through a long line of distinguished curators and research associates.

MNA conducts original research, with an emphasis in past and present natural and cultural diversity on the Colorado Plateau. The Museumís curators are committed to continuing the tradition of excellent research, increasing MNA's knowledge about regional science and art, and our understanding of how the Colorado Plateau came to be over time. MNA's research is structured by disciplines, with increasing interdisciplinary collaborations and disseminating research results through interdisciplinary exhibits.

In addition to exhibits, MNA's research is published in independent research publications, MNA Bulletins and MNA's award-winning Plateau: The Land and People of the Colorado Plateau.

Anthropology Anthropology research at MNA addresses the synthesis of Southwestern archaeology in three principal research areas: macro-regional scales in the North American Southwest, archaeology of the greater Flagstaff area and west-central Arizona, history of Southwestern archaeology and museums. Dr. Kelley Hays-Gilpin is the Edward Bridge Danson Jr. Chair of Anthropology.
Biology C. Hart Merriam explored the biology of northern Arizona in 1889, describing the life zones that exist in this region. Unfortunately, there has been little direct follow-up to Merriam's research by the scientific community. MNA's Biology Department is focused on filling this knowledge void with an intensive biological inventory of the Grand Canyon region and analysis of biological distribution. Dr. Larry Stevens is Honorary Curator of Ecology and Conservation.
Fine Art Fine Art research at MNA focuses broadly on exploring artists' biographical information and provenances of their work in MNA's Fine Art Collection. This research results in exhibits with intellectual context accompanying the artwork on display. Dr. Alan Peterson is Guest Curator of Fine Art.
Geology and Paleontology The Colorado Plateau is a rich laboratory for exploring the geological, biological and biotic history of  the region. In recent years MNA's research has successfully excavated plesiosaur skeletons, an assortment of fossil fish and sharks, and a variety of invertebrates and plants. These collections include at least four new species of plesiosaurs and a new species of dinosaur. Research has focused on the Cretaceous Periods. Dr. David Gillette is Colbert Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Hopi Iconography Project This is a collaborative project between MNA and the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, with funding support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. The project is focused on the expression of Hopi values and lifeways in pottery, mural painting, basketry, petroglyphs, and other media, past and present. Project Director Dr. Kelley Hays-Gilpin is Guest Curator of Anthropology.
Ceramic Field Identification Manual The ceramic field identification manual is designed to help archaeologists and others identify the most frequently encountered decorated pottery wares and types found on the Colorado Plateau and in central Arizona. The manual is based on Harold S. Colton's and Lyndon L. Hargrave's work at MNA in the 1930s to 1950s, with significant infusions from the work of Harold Gladwin and updates from recent research by Patrick Lyons, members of the Homol'ovi Research Program, and others. The manual includes photographs of type collections from the Museum of Northern Arizona and Northern Arizona University, and whole vessels from MNA and other museums. Project Director Dr. Kelley Hays-Gilpin is Guest Curator of Anthropology.
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