University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Welcome to the Penn Museum blog. First launched in January 2009, the Museum blog now has over 800 posts covering a range of topics in the categories of Museum, Collection, Exhibitions, Research, and By Location. Here you’ll hear directly from our staff and Penn students about their work, research, experiences, and discoveries. To explore the Museum's other digital content, visit The Digital Penn Museum.


Arctic Dance House Model

By: Margaret Bruchac

Kuskokwim Dance House Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Michele Belluomini This Inuit (Eskimo) Model Dance House (object #NA1522) in the Penn Museum’s Arctic collections drew my attention because it seemed very mysterious, but also like something I “knew.” The more I studied it, the more I realized that much more was going on […]

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Cree Coat

By: Margaret Bruchac

Quillwork-Embellished “Cree” Coat Object Analysis for Anthropology of Museums by Pauline Saribas This delicately adorned fringed Cree coat (item #NA3635) was procured from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1915 by George Byron Gordon, who was then the Director of the Penn Museum. Sewn out of three pieces of elk hide, it is embroidered with porcupine quills in […]

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Beauty Is Pain: A New Look at the Toiletry Kits from Ur

By: Kyra Kaercher

Toiletry kits have been found around the ancient world from the Indus Valley to Britain, and range in time from the 3rd millennium BCE to the modern day, albeit in varied forms.  Nearly every publication that mentions these artifacts acknowledges that we do not know how they were used, but most interpret them as dealing […]

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Iñupiaq Smoking and Siberian Reindeer

By: Margaret Bruchac

This semester, my students in Museum Anthropology conducted close examinations of objects from Arctic locales in the collections of the Penn Museum. During our object analysis of this walrus tusk ivory Iñupiaq pipe (item# 39-10-1) in the Collections Study Room, I was intrigued by the idea that it was used for smoking opium, given the absurdly small hole in […]

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Iñupiaq Pipe

By: Margaret Bruchac

Searching for Stories: Patiently Listening to an Iñupiaq Pipe Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Sarah Parkinson As a student intern in the American Section of the Penn Museum, part of my job involves inventorying accessioned objects. When I first started, I was curious about every object I handled. During the first few days, […]

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Alaska Harpoon Rest

By: Margaret Bruchac

Alaska Harpoon Rest: Supported by Bears, Whales, and Chains Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Enika Selby This Iñupiaq (also called Eskimo or Inuit) harpoon rest (Museum Object Number: NA4796) came to the Penn Museum from Sledge Island, Alaska, a tiny island off the Western coast. It is hand carved from walrus ivory, […]

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Mackosi’kwe’s Baskets: Marking Relationships

By: Margaret Bruchac

On August 1, 1938, before leaving the Maniwaki reserve in Quebec, Canada, anthropologist Frank G. Speck paid a visit to his old friends, Michel Buckshot and his wife Angelique, better known as Mackosi’kwe (also spelled Meshkosikwe, meaning “Beaver Meadow Woman”). Mackosi’kwe was skilled in pyroscapulimancy, a technique for divining future prospects in hunting and travel […]

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Get to know Dr. Elin Danien: 2015 Volunteer of the Year

By: Lee Roueche

At this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon I was lucky enough to present the award for Volunteer of the Year to Dr. Elin Danien. It’s always hard to choose just one volunteer to specially highlight, but Elin has always been a standout. In her 40 years of working and volunteering at the Penn Museum she has […]

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Deep Description and Reflexivity: Methods for Recovering Object Histories

By: Margaret Bruchac

This semester, students in my Anthropology of Museums class learned new methods for analyzing objects in museum collections by using both “deep description” and “object reflexivity.” Students were trained to combine material analysis, ethnographic data, archival research, and critical scholarship to identify and document object histories. They also gained practice in examining methods of construction, curation, and […]

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Ringo’s Futuristic School of Thought

By: Alyssa Velazquez

The work in the Penn Museum Archives never ends. The backlog resists attempts at taming it. The Archives is happy to have a number of interns and volunteers who are willing to help organize, catalog, and preserve the documents, drawings, and photographs in the collections. Alyssa Velazquez is one such intern, who is presently reorganizing […]

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Native American Voices at the Penn Museum

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