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.


Lady Franklyn’s Quilled Mi’kmaq Box

By: Margaret Bruchac and Leana Reich

In 1912, the Penn Museum purchased a birch bark box (object number NA 3851) decorated with intricate quillwork from British collector and antiquities dealer William Ockleford Oldman. During the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Oldman sold thousands of ethnographic materials to private collectors and museums (including the British Museum and Museum of the American […]

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Investigating a Pipe Tomahawk

By: Margaret Bruchac and Kayla A. Holmes

How does a tomahawk, as an object typically associated with violence, come to be connected to a smoking pipe used in rituals and ceremonies associated with peace? Who devised the idea of welding these different objects together to bring pipe tomahawks into being, and what are the cultural significances surrounding their presence? File these queries […]

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Moose Hair Embroidered Birchbark Trays: French, Native, or Both

By: Margaret Bruchac and Liliana Gurry

The intricate detailing on these birchbark trays was the first thing that caught my eye. It is difficult to fathom the amount of labor and intensive effort it takes to embroider such complex designs into a thin piece of wood. As seen in the images below, these three trays differ in shape, size, and content, […]

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The Salmon Basket & Cannery Label

By: Margaret Bruchac and Erica Dienes

This salmon basket from the land of the Tlingit and Yakutat people is a useful piece of art, woven from spruce root, grass, and maidenhair fern in a twined fashion, and originally made to carry lightweight materials. It shows minimal evidence of wear. In size and shape and weaving patterns, it closely resembles other baskets […]

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The Kaskasian Beaver Bowl

By: Margaret Bruchac and Ben Kelser

This bowl, in the form of a wooden beaver with a bowl-shaped carving sculpted into its back, is identified as having been crafted by the Kaskaskian people in the Illinois Territory.[1] The bowl was one of two non-identical beaver bowls collected in 1795 by George Turner, who was then serving as a judge in the […]

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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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Native American Voices at the Penn Museum

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