The Maxwell Museum’s Laboratory of Human Osteology received funding during the 2016 New Mexico State Legislative Session for much-needed renovations. The lab, one of the largest in the country, houses approximately 4,000 sets of human remains ranging from prehistoric Native Americans to modern documented remains. Graduate students and visiting researchers use the collection to answer a wide range of questions about past and present human populations. Collections are also used in teaching. The lab is in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and has worked with local tribes to return ancestral human remains. Heather Edgar, Curator of Osteology and Associate Professor of Anthropology was recently appointed to the NAGPRA Review Committee.
The lab is located in the anthropology building, which historically served as the original Student Union from 1937 to 1959. The space for the lab was retrofitted in the 1970s, and current conditions create obstacles for collections use. The biggest issue is the steep marine ladder leading to collections storage space—it is too steep for material to be carried, and collections have to be transported by a dumb waiter. To address the problems, anthropology graduate student and Laboratory Manager, Anna Medendorp Rautman, submitted a request for renovation funding to the UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA). After reviewing proposals from numerous graduate research facilities on campus, GPSA representatives selected the project as its funding priority. The GPSA Lobby Committee worked with students and staff to successfully promote the project to legislators.