“Since the 1800s, the indigenous societies of the Americas have typically been grouped by cultural-geographic areas. In that time, most anthropologist and government representatives thought Native peoples were a dying or vanishing race. As a result, they often engaged in what is called salvage ethnography, in which Native American artifacts were collected to be saved and studied. Museum curators, overwhelmed with the plethora of material culture coming to them, developed this model as a means of sorting specimens for storage and eventual exhibition in institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. While acknowledging that these categories were not ideal in grouping Native American societies, the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, working in the 1920s, believed that the societies within cultural-geographic areas shared similar social-cultural practices, behaviors, and technologies that would be understood by museum visitors.”

From open access textbook Native Peoples of America textbook