Penn Museum Launches Penn Cultural Heritage Center

18 AUGUST 2008, PHILADELPHIA, PA—The Penn Cultural Heritage Center, dedicated to expanding both scholarly and public awareness, discussion, and debate about the complex issues surrounding the world’s rich—and endangered—cultural heritage, has been established at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.

Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Curator, American Section at Penn Museum, and former Williams Director of Penn Museum, is founder and director of the new Penn Cultural Heritage Center. PCHC draws upon the expertise of the Museum’s curators, researchers, graduate students, other Penn department faculty, and outside scholars, for its programs. More than a year in the planning, the new Center has already piloted some spring 2008 programs for law enforcement professionals. It launches its public programming initiatives beginning in the fall of 2008.

“In a rapidly changing global world, cultural heritage has become an important topic, playing an increasingly critical role in the identity politics of communities, the economic growth of world tourism, and the rules and regulations governing the international antiquities trade,” said Dr. Leventhal. “Cultural heritage plays an ever more prominent role in the study and interpretation of the past, the ethics and planning of archaeological research, and the role of the museum, now and in the future.”

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is building a two-pronged program with research and outreach initiatives, a dual focus that draws on the University of Pennsylvania’s longstanding tradition of applying expert knowledge to pressing contemporary concerns.

“Many of the basic questions surrounding cultural heritage still need to be addressed,” noted Dr. Leventhal. “What constitutes cultural heritage, cultural properties, communities, and sacred objects? Why have cultural heritage and human rights become intertwined? What responsibilities do academics and museums have toward indigenous, scholarly, and public constituencies? What is the future of heritage policy and of economic and cultural development? What is the future of museums and acquisitions by museums? Why, for example, has the first President’s House excavation here in Philadelphia caught the interest of so many people? These are the kinds of questions we will be addressing within the Center.”

“Cultural heritage is one of the global issues of our time. Like any finite resource, its equitable management urgently needs to be high on the agenda of politicians and scholars, and it is not,” noted Dr. Richard Hodges, Williams Director, Penn Museum. “Penn Museum has long led the way in recognizing the importance of preserving and sharing heritage. Our new Penn Cultural Heritage Center intends to make a difference in the world, working on many levels, in research, consultation, and public awareness building.”

The Center’s broad initiatives include:

Education and outreach programming for diverse audiences, including law enforcement, customs officers, lawyers, policymakers, and academics involved in cultural property protection and issues—as well as community stakeholders and the general public. The Center has built upon earlier Museum training programs with United States officers to help stop the illicit movement of antiquities. Plans for a yearly Continuing Legal Education course on cultural heritage and a Speakers Series for the public are underway.

Consultation on national and international policy issues, working with Ministries of Culture and other governmental groups to develop a holistic approach in the management of cultural heritage at local, national, and international levels. The Center is currently consulting with agencies in Mali, Montenegro, and Honduras, with long-range plans to build this capacity.

Conferences, with opportunities for in-depth dialog, publication, and, where appropriate, concluding public presentations. A first such conference, exploring indigenous views of cultural heritage, features prominent native scholars and activists from North and South America, will run the week of September 29th, with a public program on October 4.

Other areas of development for the Center include community development and the integration of community involvement in archaeological programs and site protection; museum collaborations on a national and international scale, with a focus on developing best practices related to heritage issues; and the development of an expert network of archaeologists versed in cultural heritage law and ethics issues surrounding cultural heritage. The PCHC will launch a public website, within the Penn Museum’s site, by the end of 2008.

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is supported by funding from the Provost’s Office of the University of Pennsylvania and from private donors.

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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