In 1937 a small group of women, primarily wives and relatives of Penn Museum's Board of Managers, formed the Women's Committee to stimulate interest in the Museum's research and educational programs, while contributing a warming "woman's touch" to the building and its facilities.
Visitors to the Museum today unknowingly benefit from the efforts of these capable, energetic, far-sighted women. They began a tradition of initiating and developing new projects, wherever they saw a need, and supporting these until they became integrated into the Museum structure when appropriate.
A look back shows that almost every phase of Museum activity has benefited from Women’s Committee's initiatives: support for research and educational programs, including funding professional development opportunities and publications; hands-on sorting of artifacts; helping curators and keepers in storage; furnishing a Conservation Laboratory; and underwriting training of a Conservator.
Other programs were developed to engage a larger public: lectures showcasing current research ran for years before becoming part of Museum Events. Women's Committee Tours continue to invite travelers to visit archaeological sites all over the world with Museum scholars.
To interpret the Museum's collections, the Women's Committee established the Volunteer Guides program and published a Guide to the Collections. Later, Mobile Guides took Museum artifacts directly into the schools. Both Guides programs are administered by the Museum's Education Department today.
The Women’s Committee founded the Museum's first coffee shop, which became the Museum Cafe. They also started The Pyramid Shop, still the best place to buy children's gifts. The Casting Committee continues to hand-craft reproductions of Museum artifacts, available for purchase in the Museum Shop. On Sundays, gallery visitors are welcomed by our “Meeters and Greeters.”
For 30 years, the Women's Committee wrote and published the Members' Newsletter predecessor to the Museum's When in the World? calendar and the "Museum Mosaic" feature in Expedition magazine. The Committee also supported a public relations position until the Museum set up a Public Information Office in 1980.
In the 1990's, the Women's Committee inspired two exhibits: "Toys," coincided with the Committee's first Peace Around the World multi-cultural family holiday celebration, now a Museum-sponsored annual event. "44 Celebrity Eyes" highlighted collections in storage by displaying artifacts chosen by twenty-two prominent individuals, in tribute to the new Mainwaring Wing.
Celebrating its’ 75th Anniversary in 2012, Committee Members have been dedicated to assisting the Penn Museum: whether planting gardens, refurbishing bathrooms and entranceways, or providing flower arrangements to grace the entrances, the House and Garden committee has been there. From auctions to galas our activities raise awareness and funds while bringing old and new friends to the Museum.