University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

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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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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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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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? […]

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Encounters in the Cathedral: Revisiting the 1676 Huron-Wendat Wampum Belt at Chartres, France

By: Margaret Bruchac

Every year the Penn Museum provides support to Penn undergraduates and graduate students as they deepen their understanding of the human experience outside the Museum’s walls. Follow these blog posts from our intrepid young scholars as they report on the sights and sites that they encounter throughout their travels in the field. Report from the field […]

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Wampum Research: Notes from the Trail – 2014-2015

By: Margaret Bruchac

In May 2014, three members of the “Wampum Trail” research team (Dr. Margaret Bruchac with research assistants Lise Puyo and Stephanie Mach) set out to follow a century-old trail left by University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Frank G. Speck. With funding from the Penn Museum and the Department of Anthropology, we made an ambitious list of wampum […]

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Peyote Feather Fan

By: Margaret Bruchac

One Fan’s Long and Winding Road to the Penn Museum Object Analysis and Report for Anthropology of Museums by Monica Fenton This peyote fan (object number 70-9-480) was once in the possession of a Delaware (also called Lenni Lenape or Lenape) medicine man from Oklahoma, variously named James C. Webber, War Eagle, and Wi·tapano’xwe (which translates to […]

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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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Onondaga Nation and Swedish Engineers Join Hands on Global Food Production

By: Lucy Fowler Williams

Native American economic initiatives are influencing our world today…here is a terrific example! A new economic initiative in Indian Country that moves beyond the sale of tobacco and casinos is Plantagon, an innovative international partnership with Native American principles at its core. We heard about it from Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation (in […]

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