University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the Penn Museum..

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.


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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