The Museum Assistantship Program offers paid semester-and year-long assistantship opportunities for Penn graduate students to work on projects within the Penn Museum. The program pairs Museum projects in need of research assistance with interested graduate students from related fields.
How to Apply
Applications for the 2020-2021 Academic Year will be due Spring 2020
Applicants may apply to one of the projects listed below.
Prior to completing the application form, you should prepare the following:
- A brief (no more than 500 words) statement that addresses:
- Your interest in this project
- Your relevant experience and expertise
- A current academic CV
All accepted participants will be notified in early August.
This program is open to University of Pennsylvania graduate students.
Students who are members of groups underrepresented in Museum-related fields are particularly encouraged to apply.
Participants must be a full-time, active student, enrolled for the upcoming Fall Semester, to maintain eligibility.
Compensation and Time Commitment
Assistants are paid $15 an hour and should expect to commit 2 to 5 hours per week, depending on the project.
Exact start and end dates will be determined by the project directors.
Exhibiting Anthropology @ Penn
American and Asian Sections/Department of Anthropology
Kathy Morrison and Meg Kassabaum
Experience with Anthropology Department/history of anthropology, visual design skills
The Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania has a long and noteworthy history. In the late 19th century, the Department emerged as one of the earliest examples of an academic program dedicated to the comprehensive and professional scholarship of what it means to be human. It grew in the 1950s and 60s, establishing its reputation as a premiere hub of anthropological scholarship. The Department's present approach is dedicated to exploring humanity through archaeological, linguistic, biological, cultural, and a variety of other perspectives. We acknowledge that where we are today has been shaped by an exceptional lineage of anthropological scholars (see here for more information).
Until recently, this storied history was documented in a series of photographs of emeritus professors in the third floor Academic Wing hallway; however, this display left out the contributions of many other important individuals and downplayed the role of current scholars in building upon the work of its pioneers to chart new paths for understanding what it means to be human. The graduate assistant for the Exhibiting Anthropology@Penn Project would work with curators, faculty, staff, and students within the Department to develop a new exhibit that more appropriately encapsulates the past, present, and future of Anthropology at Penn.
Graduate Assistant’s role would include:
- Researching the history of the Department through archival sources, etc.
- Collaborating with current and past members of the Department.
- Preparation of visuals for display in the hallway.
- Preparation and writing of content for display in the hallway.
- Collaborating with Penn Museum staff during the process of interpretation, construction, and installation.
Smith Creek Archaeological Project Artifact Digitization
American Section/Department of Anthropology
Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020
Digital Camera, Photoshop, Photogrammetry software (or willingness to learn these things)
Digital record keeping is becoming more and more important on all archaeological projects in terms of both field and artifact documentation. I am looking for a student who is interested in helping with one or more aspects of digitizing data from the Smith Creek Archaeological Project. This could include but is not limited to: creating photogrammetric models of excavation units, creating photo mosaics of unit profiles and floors, photographing ceramic collections, developing methods for recording rim profiles and ceramic vessel form, etc.
Southwest Material Culture
Dr. Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator & Jeremy Sabloff Senior Keeper, American Collections
Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020
Object handling skills (training available); KEMu museum collections software (training available); Research skills; Observation skills; Writing abilities; Attention to detail
In 2019 Penn Museum’s North American Southwest collections, including 10,600 archaeological and ethnographic objects, were carefully inventoried and photographed. Building on that foundation, the purpose of this research project is to further enhance the Museum’s collections curatorial records through research, analysis, and documentation of material objects and to make this information accessible through the Museum’s online collections database. Working closely with Associate Curator Dr. Lucy Fowler Williams, the graduate assistant will gain specialized knowledge of materials and construction techniques used to create ceramics, weavings, kachinas, jewelry, and basketry of Ancestral and Historic Pueblo, Apache and Navajo peoples. The graduate assistant will communicate with specialists in the field, learn about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), synthesize collections data, and help develop additional writing and exhibition projects.
Teaching Collections Research
Learning Programs Department
Allyson Mitchell, Outreach Program Manager and Keeper of the Teaching Collections
Fall 2019 and/or Spring 2020
Background in art history, ancient world history, archaeology, or anthropology; Experience or interest in Education, Community Outreach and Collection management a plus; Strong research, communication, and writing skills necessary; Proficient in Microsoft Suite, specifically Excel
The Teaching Collections are used for K-12 and public Outreach and are comprised of touchable, replica objects related to the collections and research of the Penn Museum. While some object information is available, object descriptions can be limited, and more research is needed.
The graduate assistant will conduct research to review and update object records and labels and become familiar with collection management systems. They will also assist in organizing object lending systems that use artifacts for internal and external Museum learning experiences and document their process to update the Teaching Collection management manual, which will inform those who will work with the vast collection in the future. Based on experience, the graduate assistant may also participate in the development of object-based activities.
The Belize National Collection and Archaeological Sites: The Development of a Digital Archive and Resource
Penn Cultural Heritage Center
Dr. Richard Leventhal, Director of PCHC and Curator in the American Section
Computer skills – willing and able to learn 3D software and detailed photo software
Initial development of this project
Progress and monthly reports
The Central American country of Belize is a small nation situated along the Caribbean coast between southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is located within the heartland of the ancient Maya world. Thousands of people, local and international, visit the ancient sites of Belize. These include Caracol, Lamanai, Altun Ha, Xunantunich, Nimli Punit, and many others.
Belize has a large collection of ancient Maya artifacts – some of which are displayed at a small museum in Belize City as well as at some small site visitor’s centers. However, there is no large-scale national museum and storage facility.
In the 1990s and 2000s, a team headed up by Richard M. Leventhal and Louise Krasniewicz (Penn Cultural Heritage Center and Department of Anthropology) was given permission to photograph and scan the several hundred objects that make up the primary corpus of the Belize National Collection. In addition, during this same time, 360 degree panorama photographs were taken at multiple locations within many of the archaeological sites throughout the country of Belize.
- Examine, assess, and learn digital software related to both 3D scanned data and panoramic photographic tours
- Begin the process of creating a database of the images and data from Belize
- Update all data to current software requirements
- Begin process of cleaning up data and creating final images and data sets
- Work with team to present a preliminary Virtual Belize Museum and Virtual Belize Archaeology Tour – to be presented to Government of Belize
- Continue work and create process for future and final developments
The Pachacamac Collection and Exhibit
Dr. Clark Erickson, Curator-in-Charge, American Section
Year-Long, 5 hours/week
Spanish (reading and writing ability); Object handling skills (undergo training); Object photography and Photoshop; KeEMU (willingness to learn the database “on the job”); Writing and editing of reports and website content; Supervision of volunteers
In 1896, archaeologist Max Uhle amassed a large collection for the Penn Museum from the site of Pachacamac, Peru. The nearly 7,000 objects include fragile organic materials such as gourds, wood, feathers, fibers, and skin, remains of food offerings and ritual feasting, and the textile-wrapped mummified human bodies preserved by the arid environment of coastal Peru. Pachacamac was the most important sacred center in the Andean region, as well as a major deity and oracle worshiped by native peoples for over a millennium. The temples, pyramids, palaces, streets, residences, and plazas of Pachacamac were the destinations for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from different Andean societies. The ceremonial center eventually fell under the control of the Inca Empire that reorganized access and built a large Sun Temple that dominates the site. Recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, Pachacamac is still a vibrant presence in oral history, myth, and Peruvian identity.
The Penn Museum has tentatively approved plans for the large exhibit Pachacamac: an Andean Ceremonial Center to be curated by Clark Erickson (American Section) and Anne Tiballi (Academic Engagement) for ca. 2022-2023.
Graduate Assistant’s role would include:
- Preparation and management of existing object photographs (several hundred) of the Pachacamac collection for inclusion in KeEMU (photographs from various volunteer intern projects over the past decade that need cropping, renaming, sorting, and double checking against images already uploaded to the database).
- Photography of Pachacamac and related objects that have no existing images or low-quality images.
- Reconstruction of grave lots/mummy bundles (identifying associated objects from burial contexts documented in field notes, maps, photographs, archives, and registrar’s lists).
- Photography of objects from other sites collected by Max Uhle on the coast of Peru that are relevant to Pachacamac.
- Assist undergraduate students in their individual studies of objects from Pachacamac for their projects in the studio-seminar CIS 106 - ANTH 258 Visualizing the Past/Peopling the Past in Fall Semester 2019 (including photography, drawing, recording, description of objects). The studio-seminar will focus on exploration and production of 3D models, animation, and digital projection to be used in the proposed Pachacamac [Note: I may get a TA for the similar object studies in ANTH 254 Archaeology of the Incas (Fall 2019) from the Department of Anthropology. If not, the Assistant would also help in that course which also uses Pachacamac objects].
- Detailed survey and indexing of relevant archival materials relating to the Pachacamac Collection (beyond the detail of the typical Finding Guide of the Penn Museum Archives).
- Preparation and writing of content for a scholarly and/or public website dedicated to Pachacamac and Max Uhle on the Penn Museum Website (does not require website construction skills).
Visitor Experience Survey
Jessica Bicknell, Head of Exhibitions
Professional demeanor; experience with spreadsheets helpful; ethnographic or survey/research experience desirable but not necessary
We are consistently trying to measure the impact of a museum visit on our audiences. This project would go beyond standard evaluations after visiting exhibitions to assess the satisfaction and takeaway messages when visitors leave the museum as a whole, in an effort to provide data on their experience overall. This will help staff assess what exhibitions and amenities are having a positive/negative impact on visitor learning in this environment.
Short-term goals: collect data on visitors when they leave the museum via short questionnaire/interview
Long-term goals: analyze data and produce a report to glean areas/displays around the museum that are most successfully engaging visitors and which are most in need of improvement
The student's role would be to help collect data, enter data, analyze data, and produce a report.