Collections from Asia cover a large geographic and cultural area, including the five subregions of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, and West Asia. More than half of the collections from Asia come from archaeological excavations conducted in the early-to-mid 20th century in the Middle East and Indochina. Large ethnographic collections came to the museum in the late 19th century from China, as well as from Japan when it opened up to foreigners after the Edo period. Later 20th century journeys, photographic expeditions, and acquisitions contribute to significant collections from the Philippines, Siberia, Iran and Iraq, Tibet, and large areas of northern India (Kashmir, Punjab, Assam).
Collections from the region commonly referred to as the Middle East are represented in both the continents of Asia and Africa. Other collections from the Middle Eastern region can also be found at the neighboring Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East.