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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. Lectures take place in the beautiful restored Harrison Auditorium. Three lectures remain in this year’s series, on the catastrophes of the Classic Maya collapse (rescheduled for May 20), a 4th-century earthquake that shook Roman society (May 6), and the Chernobyl explosion (June 3). See below for details and to purchase tickets. You can also enjoy previous lectures in the Great Catastrophes series from your own home.

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.

Great Lecture Series Events



warden garden aerial view

An Earthquake That Shook the World

Seismicity and Society in the Late Fourth Century CE - Lecturer: Cam Grey

Wednesday | May 6 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm



warden garden aerial view

The Classic Maya Collapse - DATE CHANGED

New Evidence on a Great Mystery - Lecturer: Simon Martin

Wednesday | May 20 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm



warden garden aerial view

How Did They Survive? The Aftermaths of Chernobyl

Lecturer: Adriana Petryna

Wednesday | June 3 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Learning and Public Engagement Department