In the last issue, Dr. Gerald Margolis introduced himself as the Museum’s new Deputy Director of Operations. I too have taken on a new administrative role, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my visions for the future of the Museum, namely research and education.
The title of this magazine, Expedition, effectively summarizes what the Museum is all about: anthropological field research and excavation. Currently the Museum has projects around the globe, from Prof. Preucel’s work at the Kotyiti Pueblo in the American Southwest to the Ban Chiang project in Thailand. and virtually everywhere in between. Our time depth is equally encompassing—from my own work on Old Stone Age sites that are several hundred thousand years old to Prof. Schuyler’s work in Vineland, New Jersey, a site less than 200 years old, to studies of the culture and biodiversity of modern, living peoples. Virtually no other museum can boast of such an extensive or active research agenda and it is one of the reasons why we enjoy such respect around the world. As an indication of that respect, the archaeology quadrant of Penn’s Department of Anthropology was recently ranked in the top five archaeology programs in the country. Furthermore, much of the research funding comes from highly competitive granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, reflecting in the most direct way the respect our colleagues accord us.
But the Museum is not only a research institution—we are also a significant part of Penn’s educational mission. This involves more than teaching courses. We also engage our students in the research process through their participation in our projects; we give lectures and seminars on how history and cultural diversity shape the world today; and we use our collections to illustrate the cultural heritage that belongs to all of us. In a recent poll, alumni listed the Museum as one of the five “best memories” of their overall Penn experience.
This combination of research and education makes the Museum unique, and we have to continue to work hard to maintain our leadership role. I would like to see our research program continue to grow, especially in the application of technological innovations. This will require more investment in our computer and analytical infrastructure, but such investment is increasingly necessary to remain competitive. I also want to increase our involvement with the University community, including both students and staff, but also those who live in the University area and beyond. Although much of what we do deals with the past, I deeply believe that our research is significant to all of us living today. Our challenge is to find new ways to engage those audiences and to teach them the richness and complexity of our own species. With your continued support, the future of the Museum holds even greater promise.
Harold L. Dibble
Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Professor in Anthropology