University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Wake Me Up When The Summer Ends

September 19, 2013

With summer starting to fade to fall, the Penn Museum gladly says goodbye to the heat and discomfort of this past summer. The Archives would like to send off the season in the right way, with a look back at how the museum used to deal with its visitors during the heat (operative words: used to).

Tucked away in a box in the corner of the archives is an unfiled memo, dated May 16, 1957, from the Educational Department of the museum to the director, Froelich Rainey and Charles Wiley, the building superintendent. Students and teachers had been complaining about the heat, even fainting on occasion.  Noting that “while it is true that poor breakfast habits and nervousness could cause the students to feel weak”, the Education Department recommended that the museum throw open its windows and arrange for electric fans around the galleries to help alleviate the problem.




With the “number of fainting spells” increasing, the museum turned to a common reviving agent to help those who had fainted. Together with this memo were found two bottles of “aromatic spirits of ammonia”, more commonly known as smelling salts.  Accompanying the smelling salts is a copy of the American Red Cross First Aid Text-Book.


It is good to know that the museum was prepared should anyone have fainted. Today we are able to cool the museum better than ever. With fall right around the corner, temperatures dropping, and the museum cooling off, there’s no better time to come visit the Penn Museum.


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