Skip to main content

Museum of Northern Arizona

Museum of Northern Arizona Thumbnail Image


Mission of the Museum of Northern Arizona

The mission of the Museum of Northern Arizona is to inspire a sense of love and responsibility for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through collecting, studying, interpreting, and preserving the region's natural and cultural heritage. In 2004, MNA Trustees reaffirmed the core tenets of the museum as set forth by cofounders Dr. Harold Colton, zoologist and archaeologist, and professional artist Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton when MNA was established on Sept. 6, 1928. The museum today is an AAM accredited 501(c)3 non-profit collections, research and education institution with nearly 3,500 members.

Organizational Background

Located three miles from downtown Flagstaff and 90 miles from the Grand Canyon, MNA receives more than 65,000 visitors each year. The MNA campus includes a 21,000 sq. ft. exhibit building, a gift store and bookstore, and a complex of buildings devoted to research, education and collections. The exhibit building is open 362 days a year from 9 am to 5 pm for public visitation and frequently during evenings for lectures, exhibit openings and special events.

The Museum of Northern Arizona is one of the most important regional museums in the US. In addition to its library and archives, it holds outstanding collections in archaeology (250,000 cataloged artifacts and 9,000 cubic feet of bulk material); ethnology (14,000 items); geology and paleontology (25,000 specimens); biology (35,000 vertebrate specimens, 32,000 plant specimens and over 200,000 invertebrates) and art (3,200 pieces documenting 20th and 21st century fine art among Native Americans as well as regional work from non-native artists dating from the 1860s); and some 500 items of memorabilia. MNA also serves as a repository for collections owned by federal, tribal and state governments. The museum's seven exhibit galleries feature award-winning long-term exhibits that summarize regional geology and anthropology, along with frequently changing temporary exhibits that showcase fine art as well as diverse topics and integrated themes. In addition, MNA offers more than 450 educational programs each year through its children's Discovery Program and adult Ventures Program, lecture series, Heritage Program festivals and tours. Publications include scientific books and papers, a members' newsletter, and Plateau, a twice-yearly magazine. MNA's research includes the longest continuous archaeological survey in the U.S.; pioneering ecological studies of the Grand Canyon; and major archaeological, biological, and paleontological discoveries. MNA also has a vigorous history of collaborating with Hopi, Navajo, and other tribes to promote Native American arts and crafts and foster cross-cultural communication.

Harold S. Colton Memorial Library

The Harold S. Colton Memorial Library began with the donation of the Colton's personal library. As the collection grew, the library found a home in the museum's Research Center building, built in 1954. Today, the library includes several hundred periodicals, 50,000 books, 25,000 separates, a collection of Native newspapers, and several thousand reports, theses, dissertations and maps. With strong retrospective collections in the fields of archaeology, ethnology, geology, biology, geography and history, it is an indispensable resource for anyone doing research on the Colorado Plateau region. The Library is open Thursday afternoons from 1 pm to 4 pm, and by appointment. Researchers are encouraged to make arrangements 30-days in advance of conducting research in the library.

Museum of Northern Arizona Archives

The Museum of Northern Arizona Archives moved from the Harold S. Colton Library to the Easton Collections Center (ECC) starting in 2013. The archives holds over 300 manuscripts, over 250,000 photographic images, and 3,500 linear feet of archival material detailing the exploration, history, and research conducted on the Colorado Plateau. The holdings consist of a mixture of personal and institutional research conducted by some of the foremost scientists, photographers, and writers of their times. The Archives are open by appointment only, generally Monday thru Wednesday, and Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. Researchers are encouraged to make arrangements 30-days in advance of conducting research in the library.

Contributed Collections


Shawn San Roman, Archivist
Museum of Northern Arizona
3101 N Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, AZ 86001-8348
(928) 774-5211, ext. 269

Rights & Reproduction

Contact the Museum of Northern Arizona (library[at] for specific information concerning rights and reproduction.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search