University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Welcome to the Penn Museum blog. First launched in January 2009, the Museum blog now has over 800 posts covering a range of topics in the categories of Museum, Collection, Exhibitions, Research, and By Location. Here you’ll hear directly from our staff and Penn students about their work, research, experiences, and discoveries. To explore a topic of interest, please use the Blog Search function.


Contemplating the Void: Peopling the Past in Living History Museums – Lise Puyo

Caption: Diorama of two men exchanging wampum and beaver furs, at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Photo by Marge Bruchac.

By: Margaret Bruchac

Every year the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field. Report from the field […]

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Seeking Zen in the Museum Storeroom: What Do X-Files, Gurgling Sounds, and Museums Have in Common?

Clockwise from top left: Daniel LoMastro, Ashley Scott, Laura Hazeltine, and Yin Liu in the sub-basement, 2015.  Ashley completed her MA in Egyptology at Penn and is now working with the Egyptian Section on collections storage renovation.  Yin is currently pursuing an MA in Museum Anthropology at Columbia University.

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

Something HUGE has been happening at the Penn Museum in one of seven American Section storerooms. For the past two years, downstairs in the sub-basement (the basement below the basement), in a room about the size of a football field, two small teams of Inventory Assistants have been moving carefully from shelf to shelf, checking […]

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Eastern Turkey Feather Headdress

Examining headdress styles at the Penn Museum. In the center is a Haudenosaunee gustoweh, topped with curling partridge and hawk feathers.

By: Margaret Bruchac

This object analysis was conducted for the Spring 2016 course Ethnohistory of the Native Northeast. Students are studying Native American objects in the Penn Museum collections by combining close material analyses (elements, construction, design, condition, etc.) with other forms of evidence: textual, photographic, historical, and ethnographic. In many cases, the objects we’re studying have little to no provenance data. So, we are […]

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Considering the Feather Headdress

Cabinet card showing a group of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) medicine show entertainers. Period inscription on the back of the card reads: “Caughnawaga [Mohawk] Indians with the Kickapoo Medicine Company. Season 1891. R.W. Telford, Manager.” Photos courtesy of Gerry Biron. Private collection.

By: Margaret Bruchac

During the Spring 2016 course Ethnohistory of the Native Northeast, students are studying Native American objects in the Penn Museum collections by combining close material analyses (elements, construction, design, condition, etc.) with other forms of evidence: textual, photographic, historical, and ethnographic. In many cases, the objects we’re studying have little to no provenance data. So, we are seeking out similar objects, reaching out […]

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Wampum Field Report Part 2: Kaianerasere’Kówa – Stephanie Mach

Richard W. Hill Sr. explaining wampum imagery to the author. Photo by Dr. Bruchac.

By: Stephanie Mach

Every year the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field. This is Part 2 […]

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Wampum Field Report Part 1: Blueberry Stands, Beaver Dams, and Mannequins – Stephanie Mach

Sarah Parkinson (left) and Stephanie Mach studying ROM 911.3.130.B. Photo by Dr. Bruchac.

By: Stephanie Mach

Every year the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field. This season I continued […]

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The Speck Connection: Recovering Histories of Indigenous Objects

Frank Speck in his office in College Hall, University of Pennsylvania, c. 1930.

By: Margaret Bruchac

Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1881–1950), acknowledged as one of the most prolific anthropologists of the early 20th century, served as chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania for nearly four decades (1913–1949). He conducted ground-breaking ethnographic research, working closely with Indigenous informants from a wide range of communities (Cherokee, Haudenosaunee, Mohegan, Nanticoke, […]

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Iñupiaq Smoking and Siberian Reindeer

"Portrait of Su-Ku-Uk in Native Dress and Holding Pipe MAR 1894." William Dinwiddle, Glass Negatives of Indians, collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology. BAE GN 03099A 06510000, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

By: Margaret Bruchac

This semester, my students in Museum Anthropology conducted close examinations of objects from Arctic locales in the collections of the Penn Museum. During our object analysis of this walrus tusk ivory Iñupiaq pipe (item# 39-10-1) in the Collections Study Room, I was intrigued by the idea that it was used for smoking opium, given the absurdly small hole in […]

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Iñupiaq Pipe

Examining the Eskimo (Iñupiaq) pipe. Photo by Margaret Bruchac with permission of the Penn Museum.

By: Margaret Bruchac

Searching for Stories: Patiently Listening to an Iñupiaq Pipe Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Sarah Parkinson As a student intern in the American Section of the Penn Museum, part of my job involves inventorying accessioned objects. When I first started, I was curious about every object I handled. During the first few days, […]

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A Light Gone Out

Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually Tribe (1930-2014).

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

Indian Country lost a legend this month with the passing of Billy Frank Jr. (1930-2014).  Arrested for fishing on more than 50 occasions during his life time, Frank stood firmly for Civil Rights.  A man with clear vision and staunch determination, Frank walked with humility, strength and extraordinary kindness. During the “fish wars” of the […]

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Native American Voices at the Penn Museum

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