Culture Films Series at the Penn Museum

Penn Museum shows culture films once per month on the Second Sunday of the month (October to February) at 2pm. The Culture Films Series is free with museum admission donation.

2016-2017 : Language is Culture film series

In association with the Penn Humanities Forum theme: Translation 

Join us as the Penn Museum Second Sunday Culture Films explore the themes of translation, accents, culture and language! Get updates about our film series, archival film collection, and insider info when you subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook !

Quechua language program

Quechua: The fading Inca language (2010)

November 13, 2016 - 2:00pm

The Quechua language, the largest indigenous language group in the Americas, has been suppressed and maligned for hundreds of years, but now is enjoying a revival of esteem and usage thanks to specific governmental policies and the enthusiasm of students from as far as Paris and Tokyo.

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Upcoming Culture Films

Quechua language Program - (Peru, Guatemala, Bolivia, all Andes) 02:00PM - 04:00PM
Accents & Idioms or “Separated by a common language” Program—New Zealand 02:00PM - 04:00PM
Deaf Culture Program 02:00PM - 04:00PM
Irish Culture Program02:00PM - 04:00PM

Live from the Archives

Live from the Archives, Culture Films series

We are pleased to present our collaborations with filmmakers in re-working archival materials of the Penn Museum in this documentary film series.

Why I Wear Traje

This film about traditional costume in Guatemala uses footage from the Penn Museum Archives, especially films by the Anthropologist Mary Butler (1940 & 1948), Arthur and Kate Tode (1940) and Watson Kintner (1940). Here is an introduction made by the filmmaker and her non-profit organisation, which aims to improve the daily lives of indigenous Guatemalan people of the Lake Atitlán region:

Synopsis: Traje típico, the traditional dress worn by indigenous Guatemalans, is an important part of Mayan culture. Each piece, color, and design has a specific meaning that represents Mayan values and history. Traje is hand-made by indigenous artisans and worn by men, women, and children in all parts of Guatemala. Recently, indigenous activists and communities have begun to refer to traditional dress as “indumentaria” in order to define it as a meaningful cultural tradition as opposed to a historical costume.
Music: Secret Place by Alex Fitch

Venus Peregrine

The latest collaboration with a filmmaker involves a Fulbright project in India about Victorian era European female travelers, which she will contrast with current day internet consumption (virtual travel) by South Asian teen girls. The filmmaker, Courtney Stephens, currently researching in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), will be working with the Dixon and Tode collections for this film which is titled Venus Peregrine. Watch for this film in 2015.

To Hold the Heart

Personal narratives of three Hmong women living in the Milwaukee area, who describe their escape from Laos, this film was made as a tribute by a daughter of one of the ladies. The filmmaker, Pang Yang Her, is using 1957 footage by Watson Kintner of Laos. Look for a screening of this short film in 2015.


Footage from Passage to Polynesia was used in the upcoming French production Tiki-pop, a humorous look at the misappropriated material culture heritage of Polynesia, expressed in the oddball visual language of mid-century American pop culture. A hint: it's an ethnographic film about us .


British filmmaker Dani O’Toole revisits with her grandmother her voyage from formerly British Guiana to England to become a nurse, in a trajectory between 1932 and 1960, with all of the difficulties of racism and culture shock, yet with her sense of humor intact.

Other Film Archives Projects

In 1930 an odd assortment of scientist and adventurers struck out from New York for the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, with the stated purpose of creating the first documentary film to be made in the field with live sound recording equipment. This film, Matto Grosso , the Great Brazilian Wilderness, a 1931-style staged documentary [expeditionary film] which takes place in what we now think was the village of Pogubu C̨oreu, with the collaboration of the São Lourençla;o Bororo people.

Navajo Film Themselves

In 1966, Sol Worth, John Adair and Richard Chalfen traveled to Pine Springs, Arizona, where they taught a group of Navajo students to make documentary films. Their students were Mike Anderson, Al Clah, Susie Benally, John Nelson, Mary Jane Tsosie and Maxine Tsosie and later Susie Benally's mother, Alta Kahn. This film series is known as the Navajo Film Themselves . This site is a digital visit to the notebooks and journals of Worth and Chalfen, primary source materials for research.


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