The anthropological collection at National Museum consists of about 8,000 objects. The collection was built over the years through purchases, gifts by various private donors and some by the surveys conducted by the officials of the department in tribal belts and rural areas. The collection was further enriched by the acquisition of significant objects from Dr. Verrier Elwin, an eminent British anthropologist. These artefacts reflect the rituals and customs related to the life cycles, economic pursuits and traditions of various Indian communities. The collection comprises of artefacts in varied materials and mediums such as terracotta, textile, basketry, bone wood, metal, paper, leather, etc. Out of these variety of materials, objects such as puppets, garments, masks, weapons, utilitarian objects, paintings, adornments, musical instruments, to name a few are spread across two galleries: North-East Lifestyle and Tradition, Art and Continuity. The North-East lifestyle gallery depicts the composite culture of this region. The seven states in the North East of India, colloquially known as the seven sisters have a staggering variety of customs, lifestyles and traditions. The display highlights the regional similarity in cultural traits. The traditional apparels, jewellery, basketry, wood carvings and personal adornments of some of the groups, mirror the life and culture of the different people in the region. The glimpse of everyday life of the Monpa, Sherdukpen, Khowa, Apatani, Mishmi, Adi, Nocte, Wancho, Singhpho and Khampti of Arunachal Pradesh; the Karbi and Bodo of Assam; the Thangkul and Kuki of Manipur; the Mizos of Mizoram; the Ao, Angami, Sema, Lotha and Konyak of Nagaland and the Riang from Tripura, are on view in this gallery.
Apart from the above, the department has also acquired an interesting private collection of about 300 musical instruments from the Sarod maestro Sharan Rani Backliwal which are displayed in a gallery named after her. This gallery provides a glimpse of the remarkable diversity of Indian musical instruments.