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Research Access to the Collections

The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages researchers to make use of its collections. We have world-class collections of objects from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, ancient Egypt*, the Mediterranean, and the Near East, as well as extensive photographic, film, and document archives and a significant collection of biological specimens and remains in our Physical Anthropology collection. We make every effort to accommodate research requests, however, mitigating circumstances (including but not limited to inaccessibility, fragility, publication status, sacred nature, construction, and time constraints) may restrict access to some materials.

*Due to building renovations and gallery development work, the Egyptian Section is currently unable to support research requests. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Guidelines for Access to Collections

Anyone not adhering to these guidelines may be asked to leave the Museum’s study areas. Any changes from these guidelines must be obtained in writing in advance from the relevant Contact Person.

  1. Effective January 4, 2022, the Museum requires visitors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration or by the World Health Organization, along with a valid ID.
  2. Per University guidelines, all visitors to campus must complete a COVID-19 screening through PennOpen Campus before arriving each day. Staff may require visitors to wear masks while working in collections areas.
  3. All collections visit requests that involve access to the Museum’s collections must be submitted at least four (4) weeks in advance of the desired dates.
  4. Requests for hazardous or culturally sensitive collections are likely to be denied.
  5. Only persons who are listed on the Collections Access Request Form (pages 1-2) will be permitted in study areas. For special accessibility or coordination requirements, please communicate directly with the appropriate Curatorial Section.
  6. Visitation times are between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday-Friday. The Museum is closed for University-designated holidays.
  7. A one (1) hour lunch break will be scheduled by the relevant Contact Person.
  8. Visitors must observe all Museum access and security regulations while in study areas and must follow instructions from Museum staff.
  9. Visitors must wear Visitor Badges at all times when in public spaces; badges will be provided upon entry.
  10. No coats, umbrellas, backpacks, bags, briefcases, etc., are permitted in storage areas. Lockers or office space will be provided by either the Registrar’s Office, the office of the relevant Contact Person, or in another designated area. The Museum does not assume responsibility for these items.
  11. Any necessary bags or other possessions taken into study areas are subject to examination upon departure.
  12. Museum staff may request the removal of potentially damaging jewelry and accessories from a visitor’s attire before allowing access to study areas.
  13. Eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum is not permitted in study areas.
  14. Visitors may only use pencils in study areas. No ball-point pens, markers, ink pens, or other permanent marking tools are permitted in study areas.
  15. Visitors are responsible for supplying their own equipment (e.g. cameras, plastic measuring devices, such as calipers, magnifying loupes, etc.). Equipment that is not handheld must be approved in writing prior to the research visit.
  16. For measuring objects, the use of cloth tape measures is preferred. Please ask Museum Staff before using metal or plastic measuring devices.
  17. Visitors may handle objects only with the permission of Museum staff.
  18. Only Museum staff will move objects to and from storage equipment (e.g. shelves, drawers, etc.).
  19. For both the safety of the object and the researcher, disposable Nitrile and Latex gloves will be provided, and must be worn when handling objects. Note that collections may have been treated with harmful pesticides in the past or may react with human skin oils.
  20. While working with collections, tags or labels must never be removed from objects and loose paper labels must remain in association with collections.
  21. Cleaning (even superficial), dusting, and/or brushing objects is not permitted without consultation with the Museum’s Conservation Department.
  22. Photography or illustration may be undertaken only after a Photography & Illustration Permission Form has been reviewed and signed.
  23. Scientific testing (material analysis), x-ray imaging, and replications (rubbings, impressions, and casts) falls under the provisions of the Museum’s Scientific Testing Policy (which is available upon request) and proposals for such must be arranged in advance of the visit.
  24. Researchers must coordinate with the relevant Curatorial Section to document a complete list of all objects and/or object groups examined during their research visit.
  25. Visitors should also submit to the relevant Curatorial Section and/or Registrar’s Office one copy of any paper, publication, or film that results from the work undertaken during the collections visit.
  26. Visitors must comply with all applicable University policies.

Submit Your Request

For specific requests, please download and complete the Collections Access Request Form and email it to the relevant Contact Person listed in the form.

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