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.


Beyond the Frame: Acee Blue Eagle in the Penn Museum

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Malkia Okech “Medicine Man on Horse” is a painting on paper. A Pawnee artwork with colors of blue and yellow standing out, supported by accents of red and green. A man sits astride a horse, wearing leather hide leggings, a buffalo-head headpiece with horns, moccasins, and gloves, and his face is painted. […]

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A Vision of Color: Contextualizing a Peyote Rattle in Time and Space

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Margaret Bruchac and Sheridan Small During the era of American westward expansion, many Native American peoples were forced from their ancestral lands and confined to reservations. The Winnebago people, for example, went through several territorial dislocations as a result of three major cession treaties with the fledgling United States. They were removed […]

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Butterfly Maiden Katsina: What Makes an Object Beautiful?

By: Margaret Bruchac

Object Analysis by Anastasia Hutnick Some Native objects can inspire awe in non-Native viewers, much in the way that one might respond to a fine work of art without knowing the cultural background of the imagery. The most intriguing objects (in my professor’s opinion) are those that “remind us of what came before” and that […]

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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 […]

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Inquisitive Students: A Review of “Curious Revolutionaries” at the American Philosophical Society

By: Margaret Bruchac

Museum Exhibition Review by Sheridan Small Throughout the semester we have been discussing how modern museums resemble and differ from their predecessors, particularly cabinets of curiosities. Therefore, it was intriguing to see an exhibit that told the story of an early museum that seemed like a cabinet of curiosities, but was adamantly not an assortment […]

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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 […]

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All the Museum’s a Stage, and All the Visitors Players: Theatricality in the Museum of the American Revolution

By: Margaret Bruchac

Museum Exhibition Review by Anastasia Hutnick Enter the Visitor, strolling down sunny Old City Philadelphia streets, passing by crowds of people, feet slapping along the brick sidewalk. One can imagine children playing around the stone cannons, following their imaginations back in time to become stalwart revolutionaries, becoming a part of the museum. Or perhaps one […]

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Hidden Histories at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

By: Margaret Bruchac

Museum Exhibition Review by Malkia Okech An old brick building in downtown Philadelphia, almost hidden, tucked away between main streets, houses the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. This local history museum focuses on Philadelphia and the surrounding region; a similar museum in Pittsburgh is the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Both act as community resource centers, […]

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Song of the Abalone: As Heard From Different Ears

By: Margaret Bruchac and Katherine C. Ku

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, […]

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Levi Levering’s Headdress: Blurring Borders and Bridging Cultures

By: Margaret Bruchac and Katherine Ku

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 […]

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