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Object Identifications

Museum curators and other staff members are happy to assist with helping you identify your object in their respective areas of expertise. Museum staff members primarily identify items in these specific areas:

  • Paleoethnobotany
  • Malacology
  • Decorative and fine arts

At their discretion, staff may agree to examine other types of objects such as fossils and ethnographic items from other cultures or may arrange for or recommend other university scholars to examine such objects.

For help with identification, email with information about your object. Please include as much information as possible, including dimensions and in-focus photographs of the object. If we are unable to help you, we will try our best to direct you to someone who can.

Authentication or Appraisal

Museum staff cannot provide object authentication or appraisal. However, information about authentication, appraisals, or caring for an object can be found on the Smithsonian Artifact Appraisal site or the Getty Research Institute’s Appraisals Research Guide.


What if I find an artifact?

State and federal laws protect archaeological sites and artifacts discovered on public lands. It is both illegal and unethical to gather artifacts from these areas.

If you find an artifact, leave it be. 

A significant aspect of an artifact lies in its context—its placement within the site or the structure and composition of the site itself. Once an artifact is moved, crucial information about its historical and cultural significance may be lost.

Document and Report

Take note of where you found the item by marking the location on a map and notify the nearest Forest Service or Park Ranger. More information on what to do if you find an artifact or disturbed site can be found on the National Park Service website.

Individuals that have archaeological artifacts in their possession or that have questions about archaeology may consult the Tennessee Archaeology Association Frequently Asked Questions about Archaeology in Tennessee.