University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Penn Museum, founded in 1887, has a collection of roughly one million objects. These objects are core to our mission of transforming understanding of the human experience through research, exhibitions, and public educational programs. The care and stewardship of objects is in the forefront of our remit. The following links provide details about our role in the development of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, our compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation act, and a Statement on Human Remains in the Penn Museum. 1970 UNESCO Convention NAGPRA Compliance Human Remains Collections Access Find information about accessing the Penn Museum collection as a researcher or request to use the collections as part of your class. Learn More


1.0 Introduction This document has been developed by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) to provide a clear statement about the respectful treatment and diligent curation of human remains in the Museum’s care while supporting the Museum’s commitment to understanding human biological and cultural variability around the world. Given the University’s mission as a research and educational institution and the Museum’s mission to transform understanding of the human experience through collections stewardship, research, teaching, and public engagement, the following statement provides a general framework that acknowledges the complexities of human remains as part of our collections and strives to ensure that any use of our collections is conducted in a professional and respectful way. Research on human remains is at the core of the Museum’s research agenda. It yields information on health, diet, population structure, and human interaction with the environment, as well as culture as seen, for example, in impacts on the human body, mortuary practices, social and political status, and inequality, all of which inform our understanding of human history and prehistory and contribute to our knowledge of living human population and cultural diversity. Questions about this statement should be referred to the Director’s Office (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloak962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addy962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6 = 'director' + '@'; addy962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6 = addy962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6 + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_text962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6 = 'director' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloak962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6').innerHTML += ''+addy_text962d53d6f0e99f8b9cacd0a6a3dcbff6+''; ) of the Penn Museum. This statement will be subject to review as needed by the Museum’s Human Remains Consultative Committee. 2.0 Principles and definitions This statement explicitly acknowledges that human remains are a special category of sensitive material. As such, our collections stewardship of human remains treats them with particular respect. The Museum recognizes that there are wide legal, ethical, and cross-cultural expectations and considerations that should be acknowledged with regard to the care and stewardship of human remains. This statement is informed by the ethical codes promoted by various professional bodies such as the Association of American Museums (AAM) and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). More specifically, the Museum is subject to NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Public Law 101-601) and related regulations and guidelines concerning Native American and Native Hawaiian remains. For the purposes of this statement, human remains include tangible or recognizable bodies or parts of bodies of once living humans. They typically include bones and soft tissues where preserved, whether exposed or non-exposed to direct observation (e.g. wrapped mummies as an example of the latter), but potentially can include body parts that are naturally or culturally shed (e.g. teeth, hair, nails). Human remains can also form part of cultural objects (e.g. artifacts crafted directly out of human bone). 3.0 Collections stewardship Since its founding in 1887, the Penn Museum has collected approximately one million objects, mostly obtained directly through its own field excavations and anthropological expeditions. The Museum's vast and varied collections are in active service to the University of Pennsylvania community and researchers around the world. They are housed in eleven (11) curatorial sections: African, American, Asian, Babylonian, Egyptian, European Archaeology, Historic, Mediterranean, Near East, Oceanian, and Physical Anthropology. The Museum’s human remains consist of more than 12,000 individuals from around the world and are curated primarily in the Physical Anthropology Section, with some exceptions found in the other Curatorial Sections. The Museum strives to adopt best practices for the stewardship and curation of human remains. 3.1 Documentation The Museum’s comprehensive inventory of its human remains is not currently publicly accessible. Questions about the inventory should be referred to the Physical Anthropology Section (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloakf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addyf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b = 'physicalanthropologysection' + '@'; addyf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b = addyf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_textf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b = 'physicalanthropologysection' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloakf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b').innerHTML += ''+addy_textf3d18f7c09160211082ccef92529ff4b+''; ). Human remains are described according to the best current scientific practices of physical anthropology. The data recorded include: identification numbers; culture area; cultural affiliation; period information; type of remains; age and sex; state or region of origin; location in state or region of origin; context in which remains were collected; collector or source of collection; collection date; status of location in museum; associated funerary objects, if applicable; and any additional information about the remains. In addition, human remains are scientifically described with appropriate measurements. Approximately 700 measurements and observations can be made on a human skeleton depending on the completeness of the remains. These observations and measurements are essential to precisely identify the materials and are critical for our record keeping at the Museum. Human remains are also documented by means of imagery. These images include standard black and white or color photographs as well as digital photographs. CT scans and radiology are also performed to provide basic documentation. 3.2 Acquisitions The acquisition of human remains is handled on a case-by-case basis and generally derives from the transfer of remains from peer institutions (e.g. the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University) when the Penn Museum is deemed to be a more appropriate repository. All acquisitions are reviewed by the Museum’s Acquisitions Committee in line with the Acquisitions Policy and Procedures. As of November 1990, the Museum acquires Native American human remains only in accordance with the provisions of Public Law 101-601. 3.3 Deaccessions The deaccessioning of human remains is handled on a case-by-case basis and generally occurs as a result of NAGPRA-related repatriation processes overseen by the Museum’s NAGPRA Committee. All deaccessions must be approved by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. 3.4 Loans The loaning or borrowing of human remains is handled on a case-by-case basis and generally occurs in response to specific requests for research or special exhibitions. The Registrar’s Office handles all of the relevant processing in conjunction with the relevant Curatorial Sections. Borrowers are expected to conform to the principles outlined in this statement. 3.5 Storage The Museum aspires to best practices for the collections stewardship and storage of human remains. Improvements are constantly being made in terms of storage containers, furniture, and environmental conditions. 3.6 Access The Museum allows access to the human remains it stewards in line with its related missions of research, teaching, and public engagement. Access to collections storerooms is restricted to authorized staff, students, volunteers, and researchers, all of whom log their access in storeroom logbooks. Some special subsets of human remains (e.g. NAGPRA-related remains) are further restricted. 3.7 Handling The handling of human remains is further restricted to those personnel who have undergone specific training. To facilitate our missions of teaching and public engagement, where handling human remains is less restricted for educational needs, the Museum has established special “teaching collections” of human remains. 3.8 Conservation Human remains are sometimes stabilized using certain types of consolidants and adhesives. In general, when further conservation of human remains is required (e.g. to stabilize them for display), the Museum aspires to minimal intervention and the use of reversible treatments that will maintain the integrity of the remains. 3.9 Sampling In some instances, sampling may be performed if it is determined by the Museum to be useful in the process of dating human remains, understanding population trends, and/or assigning cultural affiliation (e.g. 14C dating, isotopic analysis, DNA analysis). Requests for sampling are reviewed and approved by the Museum’s Scientific Testing Committee. The sampling of any Native American or Native Hawaiian remains are also reviewed and approved by the Museum’s NAGPRA Committee. 4.0 Research Research on the Museum’s human remains ranges from archival research that takes place in the Museum Archives to hands-on work that takes place within Museum storerooms to collaborative work around the world that uses samples derived from the Museum and to virtual research that makes use of the Museum’s extensive collections of digital data (e.g. CT Scans, DNA data, and isotopic data). Currently, the Museum does not have a comprehensive human remains research register that is publicly available, but interested parties should contact the Physical Anthropology Section (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloak75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addy75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e = 'physicalanthropologysection' + '@'; addy75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e = addy75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_text75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e = 'physicalanthropologysection' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloak75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e').innerHTML += ''+addy_text75a5e99e978ded7ff860124f664b865e+''; ) to inquire about past, current, and future research. For researchers who come to the Museum to work with human remains, they are expected to review our relevant research guidelines (e.g. Scientific Testing Policy and Procedures) and agree to them as needed. 5.0 Display In some galleries, exhibitions, classrooms, publications, and online the Museum displays human remains and/or images of human remains respectfully in accordance with its overlapping missions of research, teaching, and public engagement. The Museum may choose to display human remains when their material component is deemed necessary for the interpretation of understandings of the human experience. The Museum informs visitors about the display of recognizable human remains in its exhibition spaces. Since much of the Museum’s exhibition galleries are also corridors thru the Museum, the Exhibition Team considers the location of human remains on display carefully and provides explanatory labels or materials to interpret the human remains for visitors. 6.0 Educational use The Museum may choose to use human remains for educational purposes, primarily through guided tours of gallery displays, when they are deemed necessary for the interpretation of anthropological or archaeological understandings of the human experience. The Museum’s educational use of human remains includes University-level teaching and educational programs designed for middle school, high school, and adult audiences. 6.1 University teaching An essential component of the Museum’s teaching mission is to train undergraduates and graduate students in anthropology and archaeology. Understanding the nature and significance of human remains, is essential when studying human evolution, anatomy, growth & development, and forensics. Although replicas of hominid fossils are key tools for elucidating human evolution, nothing compares to the reality of actual human remains when trying to understand the range and variation of anthropological, biological, and physical traits and characteristics. As a result, the Museum’s teaching collections and curated human remains form an active component of undergraduate and graduate-level training. 6.2 Public programs The Museum’s Public Programs Department on occasion hosts programs that involve or pertain to human remains. In appropriate instances, and under the supervision of appropriate personnel who facilitate the interaction with visitors, the Museum may choose to display human remains respectfully in accordance with our overlapping missions of research, teaching, and public engagement. 6.3 K-12 teaching The Museum’s Learning Programs Department which focuses mainly on K-12 audiences and K-12 teachers, does not use human remains in their museum educator-facilitated teaching or programs. Replicas are substituted where needed. Upon request, some special K-12 programs about forensic science using human remains are facilitated by Physical Anthropology specialists. 6.4 Special curricular training In rare circumstances, human remains are used by personnel in the Physical Anthropology Section to fulfil special curricular needs of non-university students (e.g. community service programs, internships, and tours).


Since its founding in 1887, the Penn Museum has collected nearly one million objects, many obtained directly through its own field excavations or anthropological research. The Museum's vast and varied collections are in active service to the University of Pennsylvania community and researchers from all over the world. Research Access to the Collections The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages researchers to make use of its collections. Read More: Research Access to the Collections Teaching Access to the Collections The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages Penn faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants to make use of its collections. Read More: For Penn Instructors Request Object Photography/Illustration The Penn Museum welcomes requests for object photography and illustration reproductions.  Read More: Request Object Photography/Illustration


Since its founding in 1887, the Penn Museum has collected nearly one million objects, many obtained directly through its own field excavations or anthropological research. The Museum's vast and varied collections are in active service to the University of Pennsylvania community and researchers from all over the world. For Research To request permission to photograph and/or illustrate objects in the Museum’s collection, please download the Photography/Illustration Permission Form and email it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloakc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addyc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541 = 'photos' + '@'; addyc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541 = addyc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541 + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_textc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541 = 'photos' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloakc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541').innerHTML += ''+addy_textc381bc0bd82b8e6c555f5d89d9050541+''; . By completing this form, you are assigning copyright to these photographs and illustrations to the Penn Museum unless otherwise specified. These photographs and illustrations may only be used for research purposes (including public presentations) and are not eligible for further reproduction, distribution, exhibition, or publication.   Get the Form For Publication To obtain publication-quality photographs and illustrations of Museum objects and the permission to publish photographs and illustrations, please email the Museum Archives at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloak08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addy08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630 = 'photos' + '@'; addy08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630 = addy08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630 + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_text08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630 = 'photos' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloak08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630').innerHTML += ''+addy_text08132edb6984aa6b7192001d6736f630+''; .


The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages researchers to make use of its collections. We have world-class collections of objects from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, ancient Egypt, the Mediterranean, and the Near East, as well as extensive photographic, film, and document archives and a significant collection of biological specimens and remains in our Physical Anthropology collection. We make every effort to accommodate research requests, however, mitigating circumstances (including but not limited to inaccessibility, fragility, publication status, sacred nature, construction, and time constraints) may restrict access to some materials.  Guidelines for Access to CollectionsThe following guidelines for researchers have been developed to facilitate the study of our collections while maintaining the safety and security of the Museum’s irreplaceable objects. Anyone not adhering to these guidelines may be asked to leave the Museum’s storage and study areas. Any changes from these guidelines must be obtained in writing in advance from the relevant Contact Person. All research requests must be submitted at least 3 weeks in advance of the desired dates for a research visit that involves access to the Museum’s collections. Only persons who are listed on the Research Request Form  will be permitted in storage and study areas. Research will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on weekdays (Monday-Friday) between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. A mandatory one hour lunch break will be scheduled by the relevant Contact Person. Researchers must observe all Museum access and security regulations while in storage and study areas and must follow instructions from Museum staff. Researchers must wear Visitor Badges at all times. Researchers must leave all coats, umbrellas, backpacks, unneeded bags, briefcases, etc., in either the Registrar’s Office, the office of the relevant Contact Person, or another designated area. The Museum does not assume responsibility for these items. Any necessary bags or other possessions taken into storage and study areas are subject to examination upon departure. Museum staff may request the removal of potentially damaging jewelry and accessories from a Researcher’s attire before allowing access to storage and study areas. Eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum is not permitted in storage and study areas. Researchers may only use pencils in storage and study areas. No ball-point pens, markers, ink pens, or other permanent marking tools are permitted in storage and study areas. Researchers are responsible for supplying their own equipment (e.g. cameras, plastic measuring devices, such as calipers, magnifying loupes, etc.). For measuring objects, the use of cloth tape measures is preferred. Please ask Museum Staff before using metal or plastic measuring devices. Researchers may handle objects only with the permission of Museum staff. Only Museum staff will move objects to and from storage equipment (e.g. shelves, drawers, etc.). For both the safety of the object and the researcher, disposable Nitrile and Latex gloves will be provided, and must be worn when handling objects. Note that collections may have been treated with harmful pesticides in the past or may react with human skin oils. During object handling, tags or labels must never be removed from objects. Cleaning (even superficial), dusting, and/or brushing objects is not permitted without consultation with the Museum’s Conservation Department. Object photography may be undertaken only after a Photography/Illustration Permission Form has been signed and authorized in compliance with Museum restrictions. Note that photography refers to images made in any medium, including but not limited to slides, print photography, video, digital images, etc. Object illustration may be undertaken only after a Photography/Illustration Permission Form has been signed and authorized in compliance with Museum restrictions. Note that illustration refers to images made in any medium, including but not limited to pencil, ink, paint, etc. Object testing (material analysis) and replicating (rubbings, impressions, and casts) falls under the provisions of the Museum’s Scientific Testing Policy (which is available upon request) and proposals for such must be arranged in advance of the research visit. Researchers must submit to the relevant Curatorial Section a complete list of all objects and/or object groups examined during their research visit. Researchers should also submit to the relevant Curatorial Section and/or Registrar’s Office one copy of any paper or publication that results from the work undertaken during the research visit. Submit Your Request For specific requests, please download the Research Access Policy to fill out the Request Form and email it to the relevant Contact Person listed on page. Save this form to your desktop before completing it.  Contact Collections This email address is being protected from spambots. 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Working hand-in-hand with communities to protect the past and secure the future. By positioning communities in a leading role, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center reframes the preservation of cultural heritage within a context of social, political, and economic development. We demonstrate and disseminate our strategy through field projects, research, engagement in public policy, and public programs that emphasize the centrality of community priorities for successful outcomes. Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Curator, in the American Section at the Penn Museum, and former Williams Director of the Penn Museum, is the founder and Executive Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC). PennCHC draws upon the expertise of the Museum’s curators and researchers, as well as the graduate students and faculty of various academic departments at Penn, and also outside scholars, for its programs. Support Penn CHC. Support the Penn Cultural Heritage Center in its mission, projects, and partnerships around the world. Your gifts make a difference. Support PennCHC Now! In a rapidly changing global world, cultural heritage has become an important topic, playing an increasingly critical role in the identity politics of communities, the economic growth of world tourism, and the rules and regulations governing the international antiquities trade. Dr. Richard M. Leventhal The Center’s broad initiatives include: Field Projects The PennCHC leads a number of community-based and collaborative field work projects, including the Tihosuco Maya Caste War Project, Mexico; Wáyk’a Heritage Project, California; and the Marzamemi Underwater Archaeological Project, Sicily, Italy. We also work with heritage professionals from conflict zones to protect heritage at risk through the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project. Research Consisting of researchers from over 17 international organizations and coordinated by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, the Conflict Culture Research Network examines why, when, and by whom cultural heritage is targeted during conflict. Public Policy The PennCHC connects community-based heritage and development to outreach programming for diverse audiences, including international organizations, law enforcement, policymakers, and academics involved in cultural property protection and issues—as well as community stakeholders and the general public. Outreach and Education The PennCHC hosts an annual public lecture series at the University of Pennsylvania about Cultural Heritage issues. The PennCHC’s faculty regularly teach four courses at the University of Pennsylvania, which make up the core of the Cultural Heritage Management certificate in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies. Cultural heritage plays an ever more prominent role in the study and interpretation of the past, the ethics and planning of archaeological research, and the role of the museum, now and in the future. Dr. Richard M. Leventhal Other areas of development for the Center include community development and the integration of community involvement in archaeological programs and site protection; museum collaborations on a national and international scale, with a focus on developing best practices related to heritage issues; and the development of an expert network of archaeologists versed in cultural heritage law and ethics issues surrounding cultural heritage. The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is supported by funding from private donors.


The Registrar's Office of the Penn Museum, established in 1929, is the hub for implementing collections policies and procedures through coordinating Museum’s collections activities and services. Staffed with five full-time and a number of part-time members, the Office’s primary responsibilities include: Maintaining object records Coordinating acquisitions Coordinating objects on loan Managing the Museum curated traveling exhibitions Administrating object database and online collections site Providing collections related services (For Information about the Museum’s Object Identification Service, click here.) Object Records The Registrar's Office houses object-specific records, including object catalogue cards, object files, accession lot records, and event-related documentation. Read More: Object Records Acquisitions While majority of the Museum’s collections came from excavations or were acquired during anthropological fieldwork during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the collections continue to grow through exchanges with other cultural institutions, donations from individuals, and occasional purchases. Read More: Acquisitions Objects on Loan The Penn Museum has an active loan program involving institutions all over the world. Read More: Objects on Loan Traveling Exhibitions Penn Museum’s traveling exhibitions and loans programs further the Museum’s mission to advance the understanding of the world’s cultural heritage by sending high-quality exhibitions and objects for display to institutions worldwide. Read More: Traveling Exhibitions Contact: Registrar's Office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloakcd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '='; var addycd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18 = 'registrar' + '@'; addycd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18 = addycd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18 + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org'; var addy_textcd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18 = 'registrar' + '@' + 'pennmuseum' + '.' + 'org';document.getElementById('cloakcd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18').innerHTML += ''+addy_textcd99cdcf34963cd989354eb97c484d18+'';


The Penn Museum's Conservation Department is tasked with the long term preservation and conservation of the Museum's object collections. Working with other Museum staff, our duties include: review, treatment, and setting exhibition parameters for all objects going on exhibition or out on loan setting travel requirements for all objects going on loan or traveling as part of an exhibition working with Collections staff to provide the best possible environment for the long term preservation of collections in storage providing conservation consultation for Museum staff, researchers, students, and the general public Currently, we have three staff conservators, five Project Conservators, one Post-graduate Fellow, one Curriculum Intern and two Conservation Technicians. Additionally, we usually have a number of pre-program interns helping out. The Museum’s Conservation Department was founded in 1966. In September 2014 we moved into newly renovated spaces, custom designed for our program. These include a large treatment lab with area ventilation; a walk-in fume hood; a separate office space; a "clean space" for working on textiles, paper artifacts, matting, and storage mounts; a digital x-ray suite and laser-cleaning station; a dedicated photography area; and a seminar room/library. These wonderful new facilities have greatly facilitated our work and made our Department better able to serve the Museum’s needs in the 21st Century. Conservation Surveys Conservation Projects




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