Category Archives: Collection

Deep Description and Reflexivity: Methods for Recovering Object Histories

Enika Selby in the Penn Museum Archives, examining photos of Inuit women in fur garments. Photo by Margaret Bruchac.

This semester, students in my Anthropology of Museums class learned new methods for analyzing objects in museum collections by using both “deep description” and “object reflexivity.” Students were trained to combine material analysis, ethnographic data, archival research, and critical scholarship to identify and document object histories. They also gained practice in examining methods of construction, curation, and […]

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Ringo’s Futuristic School of Thought

Mr. Burrows' Motherboard

The work in the Penn Museum Archives never ends. The backlog resists attempts at taming it. The Archives is happy to have a number of interns and volunteers who are willing to help organize, catalog, and preserve the documents, drawings, and photographs in the collections. Alyssa Velazquez is one such intern, who is presently reorganizing […]

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Is Elvis in the building?


In honor of the important national holiday today we highlight an ancient artifact [reel to reel tape!] from our audio-visual collections… “Plot synopsis: Archaeologists in the year 7956 explore the abandoned ruins of the long-dead civilization of North America, and attempt to decipher the meanings of its strange artifacts. Based on a short story, [by […]

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Ask Us Anything!

Project Conservator Molly Gleeson (at left) and Head Conservator Lynn Grant (at right), looking forward to answering your questions about artifact conservation.

Open since September of 2012, the Museum’s ongoing In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies exhibition continues to be a big point of interest and engagement among our visitors. In case you’re not familiar with In the Artifact Lab, the concept is pretty simple: it’s a combination of an exhibition and a working conservation lab. […]

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Films of Sitio Conte as a primary source material

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 2.06.21 PM

The Beneath the Surface exhibit has positioned the film records of the expedition to Sitio Conte prominently within the exhibit. We asked Clark Erickson, the lead curator of the exhibit, what the films mean to him as primary source materials in the history of archaeology, and especially of this site. The video advances my agenda […]

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Sitio Conte in Real Time: February 7, 1940


Wed. Feb. 7. Ash Wednesday. In spite of “Carnival” yesterday, all men at work by 7:10. Much [?] at this hour, calm & not hot. Got very hot during day. Lothrop had chicha party for men after work. Cook is apparently dissatisfied & threatens to leave frequently. Muse have good talk with him & settle […]

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Sitio Conte in Real Time: February 5, 1940


Mon. Feb 5. Warm, happy, rather clear. 9 diggers & foreman. Lothrop & I troweled on large area of broken pottery & [?] in w[est]. end of trench. Merrill surveying. Photo’d skeleton & cache in Tr I & [?] took up broken broken pottery. Corning washing & selecting sherds. John [?] [?] rolls of canvas […]

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Sitio Conte in Real Time: February 4, 1940


Sun. Feb. 4. Pleasant quiet warm day, first quiet day in ten days. Most of us up a half hour late. Merrill spent whole day on his drawings. Lothrops took a little trip up river to see Verrills site and found two new ones. The Cornings spent most of day straightening up equipment. John M. […]

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Sitio Conte in Real Time: February 3, 1940


-Robert Merrill, Field Notes, pg. 1, February 3, 1940 Today marks Robert Merrill’s first day on the job at Sitio Conte.  His meticulous field notebook contains–in exquisite detail–his notes, drawings, and photographs of the excavations. It is an invaluable tool for learning about the Cocle people and the burials at Sitio Conte. A retired civil engineer, Merrill worked with […]

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Ur Project: January 2015

Leica Picture

Pseudomorphs on Metal Objects from Ur A closer look at U.14097 and U.9134 (Penn Museum Nr. 31-17-241 and B17476) Chisels from PG 1653 and PG 537 —- This month’s Blog entry is written by researcher Kyra Kaercher with technical assistance from conservator Tessa De Alarcon. Special thanks to the Conservation Department for the macro photo […]

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Beneath the Surface at the Penn Museum