Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum has always been one of the world’s great archaeology and anthropology research museums, and the largest university museum in the United States. With roughly one million objects in our care, the Penn Museum encapsulates and illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from. As a dynamic research institution with many ongoing research projects, the Museum is a vibrant and engaging place of continual discovery, with the mandate of research, teaching, collections stewardship, and public engagement—the four “pillars” of what we do.
Following a year of reflection, evaluation, and planning for the future, fostered through a series of conversations among its staff and stakeholders, the Penn Museum closed 2012–2013 with a redefinition of our mission:
The Penn Museum transforms understanding of the human experience.
Archaeology is the study of our human past through the material remains and environmental data people have left behind. From the first traces of our earliest human ancestors to 21st century buildings, archaeology analyzes the physical remains created or modified by people in pursuit of a broad understanding of our human experience.
Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. To understand the full sweep and complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. [Definition courtesy of the American Anthropological Association]