PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has built its reputation both as a sponsor of groundbreaking fieldwork, and a center for research and education. It is fitting, then, when developing an exhibition about its 120-plus years of growth and change, the Museum invited Penn students to research and shape the story.
PENN IN THE WORLD: Twelve Decades at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, is an exhibition organized by nine undergraduate and graduate students from an interdisciplinary Halpern-Rogath Curatorial Seminar in Penns Department of the History of Art. PENN IN THE WORLD tells the still-evolving story of Penn Museum, its majestic building and the grand, often groundbreaking international work carried out by the archaeologists, anthropologists, other scholars and educators within. PENN IN THE WORLD runs May 8 through September 28, 2008, in the Museum's William B. Dietrich Gallery.
The exhibition brings together a kaleidoscope of materials from Penn Museums own vast archives and collections, the University of Pennsylvania archives, and the Architectural Archives. Using historic photographs, original documents, architectural drawings, and a selection of about 30 artifacts from more than a dozen of the Museums most renowned expeditionsas well as short footage from the 1950s TV program What in the World, and an interactive research kioskPENN IN THE WORLD weaves together diverse narratives of the Museums long history.
PENN IN THE WORLD begins with a section about the architecture, and the architects, who have designed the monumental building that has been the Museums home since 1899with the first section built that year, 12 years after the Museum was officially founded in 1887. From the first, Italian Romanesque style building and garden courtyard designed by University architecture professors Wilson Eyre, Walter Cope, John Stewardson, and Frank Miles Day in the 1890s to a new 2006-2007 master plan concept by British architect David Chipperfield currently under review, this section looks at the successes and the challenges of creating a suitable center for the international, multi-use aspects of this research, teaching, and outreach-oriented Museum.
A second section of the exhibition looks at the EXPEDITION work of the Museum. With more than 400 expeditions in the Museums long history to choose from, the exhibition team selected a dozen research sites, including Borneo, Chanhu-daro (Pakistan), Gournia (Crete), Key Marco (Florida), Memphis (ancient Egypt), Nippur (Sumerian, Iraq), Pachacamac (ancient Peru), Sierra Leone(Africa), and Tikal (Guatemala). Here, the Museums own rich archival materials and photographs are coupled with representative artifacts from the Museums collections, which number close to one million objects. An interactive video program, World of Research, at the exhibition, gives visitors an even greater opportunity to find out about work, past and present.
Peppered throughout the EXPEDITIONS section and other sections of the exhibition are about 30 artifacts, a small representation of the diverse materials brought back from the Museums archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork. Among the objects: from Borneo, a fighting jacket made of pangolin (scaly anteater) skin; from Memphis, Egypt, a faience amulet of the Egyptian god Bes with the clay mould in which it was made; rare woven work from ancient graves excavated at Pachacamac, Peru; and clay cuneiform tablets with some of the worlds earliest writing, from the Museums first archaeological expedition, to Nippur, Iraq.
A third section, INSIDE THE MUSEUM, details some of the activities that go on, including collections development, the changing face of exhibitions, educational programming, and research.
HIGHLIGHTS takes a look at some of the special activities, including What in the World? a popular, nationally syndicated TV show from the Museum, and many of the people who have made an impact at the Museum over the years, from Founders and Directors, to Donors, Architects and Artists.