Five teachers around the table listened intently as a sixth, Brett Lear, shared information about the "personal artifact" he had brought in: a standard-sized playbill from last Sunday's "final" Grateful Dead concert in Chicago. Yes, it was just last Sunday. Yes, he was there. Yes, it had value. He had checked eBay, where it was already selling for $30, though it was handed out for free to the concert-goers.
The stories behind his artifact, like the artifacts that all the teachers had brought in—a cell phone, a photo cube, a memento box with bracelet—went far deeper than the size, materials, and date of the playbill; Brett recalled the summer of '95, when he'd followed the band from stop to stop, touring in true groupie fashion.
The teachers, among the group of 27 middle school teachers from Philadelphia public or charter schools, had plenty of questions. Brett's answers elicited more—and that was all part of the exercise, an early morning warm up to an intensive, two-day Inquiry and the Ancients Mini Teacher Institute July 13 and 14, 2015 at the Penn Museum, co-sponsored by the University City Science Center, and made possible in part with support from PECO. The mini-institute was designed to complement the Museum's Unpacking the Past program, launched in the fall of 2014.
Adults, seniors, and children get in for one cool price (1/3 off regular adult admission): $10. (As always, Penn Museum members, children under 6, PennCard holders and active military—and, summers only through Labor Day weekend, active military families—enjoy free admission.) Summertime features great programming, all included* in the general admission:
Bony Questions: Considering the Origins and Evolution of Flight
Tiny skeletons of about 100 birds and 100 bats, all painstakingly packaged, have been arriving at the Penn Museum, on loan from the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Delaware Museum of Natural History.
They've been moving in to the new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Material's (CAAM) Human Skeletal Lab since about March 2015. That's when Brandon Hedrick, Ph.D., a recent Penn graduate of the Earth and Environmental Sciences department (specializing in Paleontology), joined forces with Paul Mitchell, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology and assistant in the lab, and Maya Kassutto, a rising sophomore in Penn's undergraduate department of Anthropology. Together, they've been exploring the capabilities of some powerful new CAAM equipment—and taking on some intriguing questions about the very origins, and evolution, of flying.
Seventh grade students from the Louis H. Farrell School in northeast Philadelphia, fresh from a June visit to the Penn Museum for an Unpacking the Past exploration into ancient Egyptian science, culture, and art, were enthusiastic—and then some.
From his office in the Babylonian Section of the Penn Museum, Grant Frame directs a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project that is increasing the understanding of Assyrian and Babylonian history, using never-before-translated or published royal inscriptions.
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When Lieutenant John Wylie, a 25+ year member of the University of Pennsylvania Police Department, wanted to create his new instructional Chair Yoga video, he looked to the Penn Museum's monumental Egypt (Sphinx) gallery to provide the ambiance that would inspire him and his student practitioners.
"I thought it would be eloquent to set the practice in a classical environment that would ground it to the antiquity of the past. I thought the Egyptian gallery was the most ideal place. It's beautiful here."
The space, and Lieutenant Wylie's strong, fluid, and expressive Chair Yoga teaching style, combine to create a program accessible to all on YOUTUBE: "Chair Flow Yoga II – Back to the Future of Chair." The hour-long program (it will also be offered in shorter segments) was videotaped in May 2015 by Chris Cook of the Penn Video Network. Set in the Museum's monumental Egypt (Sphinx) gallery amidst towering pillars of an ancient Egyptian palace, the program is rich in both movement and stillness. As Lieutenant Wylie notes, "The practice can be seen here as an open fluid flow that can be the base for the evolution of movement and meditative stillness for the chair yoga practitioner. I hope that it has some healing properties as well: Yoga Rx."
If you are thinking that Chair Yoga sounds like an easy way out of exercise, you may be surprised. "I think my classes now are usually a bit of a challenge. So, I would suggest that you view this program first, and as my instructor Tiffany Cruikshank says, 'Take what you need!' If you think the entire practice is something that you can use, please just enjoy it and allow it to open up within you. Each of us has a gift that can be unwrapped and opened with our own personal yoga practice. You just have to find the right yoga practice for you. This Chair Yoga Flow II may be the one that unwraps one of your gifts. I hope that it is."
Working in what can be a stressful career, Lieutenant Wylie acknowledged that yoga made a difference in how he approached his life, and his work: "Yoga does give me a sense of calm and clarity in my daily activities and probably more-so in my work life. When I first started feeling the benefits of the practice I would often find myself saying, 'Wow, that person needs yoga.' That happened a lot at work. Over the years it has also helped give me a sense of insight into the impact that my life can have on others and how important it is to value everyone's life and their life process."
John Wylie has been teaching yoga for eight years, and studying with many teachers for far longer. Currently, he is taking classes locally under Mrs. Joan White, an internationally recognized classical yoga guru in the Iyengar style and lineage, having been a student of the late B.K.S. Iyenagar for 30+ years. With Mrs. White, he keeps grounded in a complete practice and study of yoga, which entails meditation, the physical practice (asana), breathing practices (pranayama) and a study of the yoga scriptures (sutras) and literature. He acquired his Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT 200 hr) certification in Baptiste Power Yoga in 2007 under Bill Raup, falling in love with this style after a few sessions of practicing Bikram hot yoga. He is also a student in a program called Yoga Medicine developed by Ms. Tiffany Cruikshank. He is influenced by many other instructors, including; Janet Stone, Clara Roberts-Oss, Duncan Wong, Simon Park, and most importantly Shiva Rea.
Prior to his explorations and teaching of yoga, Lieutenant Wylie received a black belt in a Japanese Karate style called "Muji Shin Te" with his sensei Thomas Coleman. He has a BA in Religious Studies from Franklin & Marshall College, and an MS in Organizational Dynamics from Penn.
On Wednesday, May 13, 2015, Dr. Katharyn Hanson, a Consulting Scholar with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the Penn Museum, testifed before the Congressional Hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the destruction of archaeological sites and the impact on modern communities in Iraq. She had grim news to share:
"Minority religious heritage sites throughout ISIS held areas of Iraq and Syria have been suffering enormous damage and face constant risk. The targeted extermination of religious minorities by ISIS results in mass death and also the erasure of the outward manifestations of the minority religious culture, threatening the continuity of their religious practices."
Dr. Hanson is the Visiting Manager and a lecturer for the Archaeological Site Preservation Program at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, Iraq. She recently completed her doctorate at the University of Chicago in Mesopotamian Archaeology. Her research on Iraq and Syria combines archaeology, remote sensing, and cultural heritage policy. In the policy area, she previously worked in a US Senate office on Capitol Hill and for the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center. She has published on damage to ancient sites in southern Iraq and on her fieldwork in Syria. Based on her work she has curated international museum exhibits on this damage. Dr. Hanson’s current research focuses on cultural heritage preservation in Iraq and Syria.
Click here to read her full testimony.
A nine-day, community-wide celebration of science, this year's Philadelphia Science Festival takes place April 24 through May 2, featuring lectures, debates, hands-on activities, special exhibitions and a variety of other informal science education experiences for Philadelphians of all ages. Penn Museum is a founding partner and an active participant of the festival. Come out to explore, and look for Penn Museum activities at a number of locations!
Archaeologist Lauren Risvet, the Robert H. Dyson Assistant Curator, Near East Section of the Penn Museum, has been working in Azerbaijan, one of the first Westerners to excavate there. Her goal: to build a broader picture of a great empire. But first, she needed to build a community of colleagues in the region, willing and able to join in on the exploration. Together, as this story in SAS Frontiers notes, the international team is making progress. They return to Azerbaijan for a 2015 season June through August.
Photos, left to right: Nilufer Agayeva, Naxcivan State University, Azerbaijan, in the forground, supervising excavations; Lauren Risvet in the field in Azerbaijan; Penn alumna Jennifer Swerida (in white hat) and Rachel Cohen (black bandana) are among those excavating a burial (Photo Courtesy: Lauren Risvet).
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology deplores the devastating, ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria. The continued pillaging of archaeological sites and the destruction of irreplaceable artifacts and monuments are a catastrophe for the people of the region and for all humanity. As an institution dedicated to studying, preserving, understanding, and sharing knowledge of the world's rich and diverse cultural heritage—and with an especially strong history of work and study in Iraq—the Penn Museum particularly laments the destruction of archaeological sites, museums, and libraries in and around Mosul. Alongside our colleagues throughout the world, we urge the international community and all relevant organizations to do all they can to find solutions to halt this abhorrent destruction.
The Penn Museum is actively involved in this pursuit through its Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) which is a partner of Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project (SHOSI), a consortium of the PennCHC; the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Shawnee State University; The Day After, a Syrian NGO; and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The SHOSI Project supports the efforts of heritage professionals and local communities in Syria and Iraq, who are working under dire circumstances to protect their cultural heritage for the future. The SHOSI Project's ongoing work includes working with displaced heritage professionals and community members who are attempting to preserve cultural heritage, documenting high-risk sites in Syria and Iraq, first-aid conservation treatment of damaged sites, geospatial site monitoring, and periodic workshops and training activities.
Julian Siggers, Ph.D.
Six Panamanian high school exchange students from Colegio San Agustín, Panama City, paired with local students from Villa Maria Academy and Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, PA, returned to Panama Saturday February 7 after a month-long stay in the region—but not before they, and their hosts, were treated to a VIP "sneak preview" of a new exhibition that explores a spectacular part of Panama's cultural heritage.
Beneath the Surface: Life, Death, and Gold in Ancient Panama, a new exhibition based on famous 1940 archaeological excavations in Panama, opened to the public with fanfare Saturday, February 7: the Consul General of Panama in Philadelphia attended the celebration, which included Panamanian folk dancers and curators' talks, providing a rare opportunity for the region to discover Panamanian culture and history.
DECEMBER 2014—Dr. C. Brian Rose, Peter C. Ferry Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section at the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) and the James B. Pritchard Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Classical Studies, School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, will receive the Archaeological Institute of America's top honor, the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement. The award will be formally presented at an Awards Ceremony on January 9, 2015 at the prestigious organization's annual conference to be held in New Orleans.
In announcing the 2015 award on the organization's website, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) noted that the honor goes to Dr. Rose, "For his work in the field at Troy, the Granicus River Valley Survey Project, and Gordion [Turkey]; his visionary and energetic efforts to provide cultural heritage training to the members of the US military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; and his highly influential role as an educator, formerly at University of Cincinnati and now at University of Pennsylvania."
PHILADELPHIA, PA November 2014—When Publisher DK, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, decided to create a book that offers a unique look at world history through the visual presentation of human-made artifacts, they contacted the Penn Museum in Philadelphia about the possibility of exploring the collections and possibly taking a number of object photos for the new book.
The gloriously illustrated full-color book—History of the World in 1,000 Objects—published last month, is out, and the numbers are in: more than 200 objects in the book, roughly 20%, come from the Penn Museum's world-renowned international collections.
The Penn Museum congratulates Suzan Shown Harjo! Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee poet, writer, lecturer, curator, policy advocate, and an advisor to the Penn Museum's Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now, Dr. Harjo will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, at an award ceremony at the White House on November 24, 2014.
President Obama was quoted as saying: "From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world."
Dr. Harjo was among 19 Americans named this year by President Obama for the prestigious award; among them, author Isabel Allende, journalist Tom Brokaw, actress Meryl Streep, and singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder.
Details are on the White House blog.
Visitors to the Penn Museum can see video excerpts of Dr. Harjo in the Native American Voices exhibition.
The Penn Museum recently welcomed eight renowned painters from China, visiting the galleries as part of a three-day Philadelphia stop on a U.S. tour. Artists Yun Sheng Nan, Bo Qiang, An Wei, Xiaoyong Zhang, Weiguo Zhao, Yunsheng Hu, Rongqiang Zhai, with Baoxing Zhang Group leader, enjoyed a sunny morning in the Museum's Warden Garden.
The artists' works were shown in New York City in the International Ecological Art Exhibition, part of the 2014 U.N. High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace, a daylong opportunity for Member States, U.N. entities, NGOs, media, and the private sector to exchange ideas promoting peace. Known for their traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting of birds, flowers, and landscapes, the artists hold multiple awards and distinctions. Public and private collections throughout China feature their paintings. They plan to host a Philadelphia exhibit next spring.
Penn Museum's Footprints of Peace program is scheduled for International Peace Day Sunday, September 21. For one group of West Philadelphia summer campers with the Artistic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) Summer Program, however, peace preparations have been underway for much of the summer, with more work planned when the ACE Afterschool program kicks in.
Children from the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation of Bridgeton, New Jersey, recently visited the Penn Museum's Native American Voices exhibition to see their tribe represented in a major exhibition.
Members and friends of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania recently came ashore to the Penn Museum 13 days into their 17-day "Rising Nation" Delaware River canoe journey, inviting area neighbors, organizations, families, and friends to join in signing the Treaty of Renewed Friendship. Those who signed the treaty indicate their support of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania as partners and caretakers of a sacred homeland—the region of eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and southern New York.
Molly Gleeson, Rockwell Project Conservator of In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies, recently welcomed a special, and especially determined, young guest.
One week every summer for the past four years, Jessica "Jessie" Schwartz, with her parents, Penn Museum members Dr. David Schwartz and Stephanie Schwartz, have traveled from Atlanta, Georgia so Jessie can participate in the Museum's Anthropologists in the Making camp, usually during the Egyptian-themed camp weeks. Last summer after the fourth grade, she discovered the In the Artifact Lab workspace exhibition through camp activities in the galleries, but felt torn between finishing the camp day or speaking with an In the Artifact Lab conservator at 2:00 pm.