University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Category: Collection


Living Tradition: The Penobscot Root Club

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Malkia Okech Two Penobscot root clubs collected by A. H. Gottschall (object # 97-84-2123 and 97-84-2124) came to the Penn Museum from the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1936. Adorned with intricate carving and paint, root clubs are a long-standing tradition of the Penobscot tribe located in Maine.[1] Although we know nothing […]


Visualizing Native People in Philadelphia’s Museums: Public Views and Student Reviews

By: Margaret Bruchac

Material representations of Indigenous history in public museums do more than merely present the past. Exhibitions are always incomplete and idiosyncratic, revealing only a small window into the social worlds of diverse human communities. Museums create, in essence, staged assemblages: compositions of objects, documents, portraits, and other material things that have been filtered through an […]


Moundbuilders: A Physical Reflection of Cultural Significance

By: Margaret Bruchac

Museum Exhibition Review by Katherine C. Ku At first glance, the “Moundbuilders” exhibit can seem unassuming. It is not particularly large or flashy, but is rather gracefully reticent. Though it doesn’t demand one’s attention like the other parts of the Penn Museum (like, say, the Sphinx or Queen Puabi’s headdress), it contains multitudes, offering meditations […]


Song of the Abalone: As Heard From Different Ears

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Katherine Ku Abalone shell is unquestionably beautiful. Its unassuming rough exterior only serves to make its iridescent and scintillating interior even more attractive in contrast, making it comparable in aesthetic value to materials like gold, silver, and gemstones. Beyond this surface beauty, abalone is simultaneously a living thing and a life-giving force, […]


Levi Levering’s Headdress: Blurring Borders and Bridging Cultures

By: Margaret Bruchac

The feather headdress labeled 38-2-1 in the Penn Museum Collection is richly colored and composed of many types of materials. It consists of a felt cap with a leather forehead band covered with a panel of vivid loomed beadwork (in orange, blue, yellow, and white tipi shapes) and two beaded rosettes (blue, yellow, white, and […]


Baffin Island Inuit Doll: Dressed to Care

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Anastasia Hutnick This Inuit doll and her parka, Objects NA2549 and NA2550, respectively, were acquired by the Museum in 1914 from collector Henry F. Ford. Ford also donated 59 other objects from the Hudson Bay Area, including various articles of clothing, toys, and tools. This doll with her parka, however, is the […]


Object Matters: Considering Materiality, Meaning, and Memory

By: Margaret Bruchac

Report from the Fall 2017 Anthropology of Museums class How do Indigenous objects in museum collections “speak” to those who create, collect, curate, display, and observe them? The material traces in these objects obviously evoke connections to particular aesthetic values, beliefs, and practices, but do they also retain memories of the artisans who created them? […]


A Super-8 Film from 1974 Finds Its People

By: Kate Pourshariati

Last summer, through a lucky set of connections, including introduction to the Museum’s new South Asia Curator Kathleen (Kathy) Morrison, the Museum was able to reunite the anthropologist Christine Padoch with a single camera roll of super 8 film that she shot in 1974 in Malaysian Borneo. Senior Archivist Alex Pezzati located the film rolls […]


Traces of Culture in Traces of Paint

By: Margaret Bruchac

This object analysis was conducted for the Fall 2017 University of Pennsylvania course “Anthropology of Museums.” Students are examining Native American objects in the American Section of the Penn Museum by combining material analysis (elements, construction, design, condition, etc.) with documentation (texts, photographs, ethnographic data, etc.). Since some objects have minimal provenance data, we seek out similar materials, […]


Celebrating 50 Years of Professional Conservation at the Penn Museum

By: Nina Owczarek

The Conservation Department is celebrating its 50th anniversary this fall. The lab was first established in 1966 and is one of the first archaeology / anthropology conservation labs in the US staffed by professional conservators. In the early years, the focus was on conservation treatments. But under the leadership of Virginia Greene, who began working […]


Native American Voices at the Penn Museum

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