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Great Lecture Series

Great Catastrophes

Throughout time, catastrophes have shaped the world we live in. In the 2019-20 Great Lecture Series, we explore catastrophes from their causes and immediate impacts, to their implications and ingenuities. Natural and nuclear disasters, along with disease and deluge, will all be explored—from Pompeii to Chernobyl and mass extinction to the flu pandemic. Join us on the first Wednesday of the month from October to June. $50 Subscription or $7 per lecture for Penn Museum Members; $80 Subscription or $10 per lecture for the general public.

audience listening to a lecture

What better way to delve into the thrill of discovery than to hear from acclaimed Penn faculty and invited special guests during our signature lecture series? The annual “Greats Lectures” offer visitors opportunities dig into the past through vivid details and incredible insights into humanity over time and space.


$10 General Admission
$7 Penn Museum Members Advance Ticket*
$10 At-the-door based on availability

NEW! Come early to join a PhD candidate or collections expert for a pre-lecture Daily Dig object talk at 4:30pm that will highlight the each month's lecture topic, with no registration required. And before each of the Greats Lectures, the Museum Café will serve delicious, daily-prepared hot entrees, soup, and sandwiches. Arrive in the late afternoon to enjoy all the Museum has to offer!

*Have Membership questions? Please contact the Membership Office at 215.898.5093 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To get the member discount online, you must log in as a member on the ticketing site. Member discount applies only to the number of persons on your membership core benefits.

Due to Harrison Auditorium renovations, the October 2 and November 6 Great Lectures will be presented in the smaller Rainey Auditorium. For December 4 and beyond, the series will permanently move back into the newly transformed Harrison Auditorium.

Upcoming Lecture Dates



mural from pompeii

The Destruction of Pompeii and Its Aftermath

Blacker and Denser Than Any Other Night

Wednesday | December 4 | -



astroid hitting earth

Great Catastrophes in Earth History

Wednesday | January 8 | -



two women with bowls of substances

Overturning of Space and Time

The End of the Inca Empire

Wednesday | February 5 | -



nurse in mask

Spit Spreads Death

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918–19 in Philadelphia

Wednesday | March 4 | -



warden garden aerial view

The Classic Maya Collapse

New Evidence on a Great Mystery

Wednesday | April 1 | -



warden garden aerial view

An Earthquake That Shook the World

Seismicity and Society in the Late Fourth Century CE

Wednesday | May 6 | -



warden garden aerial view

How Did They Survive? The Aftermaths of Chernobyl

Wednesday | June 3 | -


Learning and Public Engagement Department