Penn Museum Awarded Three Year $301,000 Grant From the National Science Foundation for Native American Research Opportunities for Undergraduates

25 MARCH 2004, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been awarded a three year, $301,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support an innovative research experience for undergraduates: "Native Voices, Past and Present, Studies of Native American Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology."

Over the duration of the grant, 36 undergraduate students--18 Native American students and 18 University of Pennsylvania students--will have the opportunity to develop and engage in original research projects using the Museum's rich North American Indian collections, including ethnographic and archaeological materials.

Each year, six Native American students will be recruited to the Penn campus. For one semester (spring), the students will enroll in Penn courses and live on campus while conducting independent research at the Museum. The Native American students will each partner with a current Penn student, and the Penn student will have the opportunity to spend six weeks during the summer at the Native American community, reservation, or research institution where their Native American partner comes from.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site award, which contributes to the National Science Foundation's continuing efforts to attract talented students into careers in science, is a first on-site student opportunity for the Museum, noted Dr. Jeremy A. Sabloff, Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and Principal Investigator for the project. "This award represents an exciting direction for the Museum, which operates as a hybrid public institution, research and University educational center for and about world cultures."

"It's a real win-win situation for all involved," he continued. "Talented Native American and Penn students will have an unusual opportunity to design and conduct important new research on significant Penn Museum collections, and the Museum will have the opportunity to take advantage of what they learn, through website exhibitions, publications, and mini-exhibitions that may come about as natural products of their learning."

The nature of the projects students will be involved in can vary widely. Possible projects include: an examination of the passage of the Lenni Lenape from their tribal home in the Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey region to their current home in Oklahoma; a determination of the past diet of native Arctic peoples of Point Barrow, Alaska; or research into the languages of various Native American groups, using archival materials available at Penn Museum.

The American section and Physical Anthropology section scholars and Museum staff also look to this project as a significant opportunity to forge new working relationships with Native American communities, tapping into those communities through the interest and involvement of the young Native American students.

"Over the past decade, Museum staff and scholars have begun the process of discussions with a number of Native American communities interested in better understanding our collections as they consider making select repatriation requests under NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act)," noted Dr. Janet Monge. Dr. Monge is co-Principal Investigator for the grant, Adjunct Associate Professor of Physical Anthropology at Penn and Keeper of the Physical Anthropology collection at Penn Museum. "The NAGPRA consultations often have yielded new information and insights into the collection, as Native American elders and other leaders in tribal communities have shared their cultural knowledge in both general and specific ways. We hope to continue in that spirit of shared learning with this new project."

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located at 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. For general information, visitors may call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum’s award-winning website at http://www.penn.museum.

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