Culture Films Series at the Penn Museum

Our highly successful open conservation lab recently received additional funding and will run at least through August 2016. We continue to learn a lot (Number 1 question asked by visitors: “Is it real?”). Even though the objects being treated in the Artifact Lab have all been in our collections for many decades, the potential for new discoveries (or re-discoveries) has been amazing.

As plans for the reinstallation of the Museum’s iconic Egyptian Galleries progress, we will be focusing on treatment of those objects and the Artifact Lab will be an ideal space to treat many of the larger pieces.You can read about these projects, as well as other fascinating topics on our blog.

Deaf Culture Program

Making noise in silence Dir. Mina T. Son (2015)

February 12, 2016 - 2:00pm

What are hearing people missing by not being able to sign with deaf people? What parts of deaf culture are hard to translate? What is an accent in American Sign Language? These and many other questions will be addressed in this program of short films. [This program will be interpreted in ASL so that all audiences can enjoy it].

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Upcoming Culture Films

Deaf Culture Program 02:00PM - 04:00PM
Irish Culture Program02:00PM - 04:00PM

Live from the Archives

Live from the Archives, Culture Films series

We are pleased to present our collaborations with filmmakers in re-working archival materials of the Penn Museum in this documentary film series.

Why I Wear Traje

This film about traditional costume in Guatemala uses footage from the Penn Museum Archives, especially films by the Anthropologist Mary Butler (1940 & 1948), Arthur and Kate Tode (1940) and Watson Kintner (1940). Here is an introduction made by the filmmaker and her non-profit organization, Mayan Families, which aims to improve the daily lives of indigenous Guatemalan people of the Lake Atitlán region:

Synopsis: Traje típico, the traditional dress worn by indigenous Guatemalans, is an important part of Mayan culture. Each piece, color, and design has a specific meaning that represents Mayan values and history. Traje is hand-made by indigenous artisans and worn by men, women, and children in all parts of Guatemala. Recently, indigenous activists and communities have begun to refer to traditional dress as “indumentaria” in order to define it as a meaningful cultural tradition as opposed to a historical costume.
Music: Secret Place by Alex Fitch

Venus Peregrine

The latest collaboration with a filmmaker involves a Fulbright project in India about Victorian era European female travelers, which she will contrast with current day internet consumption (virtual travel) by South Asian teen girls. The filmmaker, Courtney Stephens, currently researching in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), will be working with the Dixon and Tode collections for this film which is titled Venus Peregrine. Watch for this film in 2015.

To Hold the Heart

Personal narratives of three Hmong women living in the Milwaukee area, who describe their escape from Laos, this film was made as a tribute by a daughter of one of the ladies. The filmmaker, Pang Yang Her, is using 1957 footage by Watson Kintner of Laos. Look for a screening of this short film in 2015.


Footage from Passage to Polynesia was used in the upcoming French production Tiki-pop, a humorous look at the misappropriated material culture heritage of Polynesia, expressed in the oddball visual language of mid-century American pop culture. A hint: it's an ethnographic film about us .


British filmmaker Dani O’Toole revisits with her grandmother her voyage from formerly British Guiana to England to become a nurse, in a trajectory between 1932 and 1960, with all of the difficulties of racism and culture shock, yet with her sense of humor intact.

Other Film Archives Projects

In 1930 an odd assortment of scientist and adventurers struck out from New York for the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, with the stated purpose of creating the first documentary film to be made in the field with live sound recording equipment. This film, Matto Grosso , the Great Brazilian Wilderness, a 1931-style staged documentary [expeditionary film] which takes place in what we now think was the village of Pogubu C̨oreu, with the collaboration of the São Lourençla;o Bororo people.

Navajo Film Themselves

In 1966, Sol Worth, John Adair and Richard Chalfen traveled to Pine Springs, Arizona, where they taught a group of Navajo students to make documentary films. Their students were Mike Anderson, Al Clah, Susie Benally, John Nelson, Mary Jane Tsosie and Maxine Tsosie and later Susie Benally's mother, Alta Kahn. This film series is known as the Navajo Film Themselves . This site is a digital visit to the notebooks and journals of Worth and Chalfen, primary source materials for research.


Public Programs Department


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