Author Archives: Alessandro Pezzati

The Dying Art of the Letterhead


The Penn Museum Archives has prepared a new public exhibition, of special interest to enthusiasts of graphic art and design. “To Whom It May Concern: Letterhead from the Penn Museum Archives” presents an array of letterhead from its collections, dating mostly from the 1890s through the 1940s, when letterhead design was particularly expressive and ornate, […]

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Eskimo Soccer

Eskimo girl with soccer ball.  Point Barrow, Alaska.  Photograph by E. A. McIlhenny, 1897-1898.

In conjunction with the 2015 Copa America, and especially the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the Penn Museum offers this photograph to the soccer world. Last year, I found this photo of soccer amongst the Eskimo of Point Barrow, Alaska, taken by ornithologist and Tabasco sauce heir, Edward Avery McIlhenny in 1897-1898. That photograph shows a […]

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Hot pepper and ice – and the earliest photograph of soccer north of the Arctic Circle


The 2014 FIFA World Cup has begun in Brazil this afternoon.  Since it is being played in a tropical country this year, the Penn Museum Archives thought it fitting to show what is most likely the earliest photograph of a soccer game played north of the Arctic Circle. Taken at Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost […]

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Lantern Slide Salon: The Adventures of Furness, Harrison, and Hiller in Color

Tegang, a Dayak from Borneo was the guide of William Henry Furness III, Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., and Hiram M. Hiller on their trip to the interior of the island, 1896-1897.  Photograph by Alfred C. Harrison, Jr.; hand-colored by Katharine Gordon Breed.  Penn Museum image 216350

In its 125-year history, the Penn Museum has sent out anthropological and archaeological expeditions throughout the world.  Between 1895 and 1903, three young men affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania undertook several expeditions to the Far East.  Their principal destination was the island of Borneo, to traverse the interior of the island and collect ethnological […]

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The scholar and his famous student

One Scholar’s Famous Student: James Pritchard and Martin Luther King, Jr. James B. Pritchard (1909-1997) was a renowned Biblical archaeologist.  He worked at the Penn Museum from 1950 to 1978, excavating a number of sites in the Syro-Palestinian region, including Gibeon (1956–1962), where the sun stood still for Joshua.  He also worked at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, […]

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Not a hoax! “Matto Grosso” and “The Kid”

Missing sibling film re-united with Matto Grosso: The Great Brazilian Wilderness (1931) Three weeks ago you were introduced to Tari, the cute Bororo boy who appears in one of the Penn Museum’s films.  He also had a starring role in his own short film, which was only recently rediscovered.  You will be able to see […]

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The Tactile Experience

I previously wrote about the Penn Museum’s close calls with visitors outraged because forbidden to paw at the granite sphinx.  But when is it okay for a visitor to handle the artifacts?  Exceptions are made, not only when you are famous, but sometimes because you are blind, and more rarely, when you are famous and […]

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Do the museum guards really mistreat visitors?

It is an eternal conundrum of museums to balance the contradictory values of preservation and access.  On the one hand, museums must protect these countless pieces of the world forever, but on the other, they’re not allowed to do it the best way, which is to put everything underground in a salt mine beneath a […]

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More snakes than Indiana Jones

While preparing for an upcoming presentation, I am finally taking a close look at the museum’s amazing film collection.  Though digitized and made available online in 2007-2008 by the Internet Archive,  the 675 reels of 16mm film are simply too much material for casual browsing.  Spending time with the films, however, is worth it. Comprised […]

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Beneath the Surface at the Penn Museum