Is Your Mind Ready for Adventure?

From the Archives

By: Alex Pezzati and James R. Mathieu

Originally Published in 2008

View PDF

“EXPEDITION—for the adventurous mind. If you’re puzzled about man’s fate, about his potential for greatness or failure in this sometimes frightening world he’s fashioned for himself…. If you’re curious about man’s development, the laws, religions, social institutions of which he is both slave and master…. If you’re intrigued by the continuing saga of mankind, in which you yourself play an important role…. Then EXPEDITION is for you.”

Various Covers of Expedition Magazine

The above advertisement, printed in 1971, dared readers to subscribe to Expedition magazine and take part in its legacy. It seems especially timely now to look back on this sense of adventure as Expedition magazine turns 50 years old with this issue.

Launched in the Fall of 1958 by Director Froelich Rainey to promote the University Museum, Expedition thrived on both the popularity of archaeology and anthropology at that time as well as the increasing breadth and reach of the Museum’s groundbreaking work around the globe.

From its inception, Rainey set high goals for the magazine. In his first editorial, he saw the search for “meaning in the whole history of man” as a need for authenticity and a com­mon tradition in an uncertain age. The Museum, and especially Expedition, would be the ambassadors of an anthropological humanism that could “lead to that intellectual integrity so necessary in contemporary society.”

A magazine primarily for the Museum’s members, Expedition has also always been more. The Museum’s research program has helped shape the face of archaeology for decades. At its side, Expedition has been a popularizing force, reaching readers around the world. For 50 years the magazine has charted expeditions, from Australia to beneath the Mediterranean Sea, from the Amazon to the Libyan desert. Articles highlighting Museum collections and exhibitions have complemented such explorations.

Expedition has also carried other voices, including such luminaries in their fields as A. V. Kidder, Brian Fagan, Charles Redman, George F. Bass, Homer A. Thompson, J. Eric S. Thompson, John L. Cotter, Kathleen M. Kenyon, Lewis R. Binford, Marija Gimbutas, Sir Max Mallowan, Patty Jo Watson, and Tatiana Proskouriakoff. Over the years, articles have also appeared by the adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, by Alfred Friendly—long-time managing editor of The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize winner, and, during the 1970s, Expedition’s European and Mediterranean correspondent—and even by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who contributed a report on underwater archaeology in Sri Lanka.

The Museum Journal volume 3 number 1 (1912) (left) The Museum Journal volume 8 number 4 (1917) (right)

Prior to Expedition the Museum published other periodicals, beginning with the Bulletin of the Free Museum of Science and Art (as the Museum was then called) from 1897 to 1902, followed by the Transactions of the Department of Archaeology from 1904 to 1907. Finally, in 1910, with the introduction of The Museum Journal, the Museum had its first sustainable serial publication that led in an unbroken line to today’s Expedition.

From its inception, The Museum Journal was directed to members and supporters, with reports on Museum collections and expeditions written authoritatively but “presented without too many technical particulars.” However, in 1930, in an effort to please divergent audiences, the Museum launched The University Museum Bulletin for its members and lay readers, and allowed the focus of the The Museum Journal to become purely scientific (which may explain its demise in 1935).

Although the Bulletin’s format was small and uninspiring, it served the Museum well during the lean years of the Great Depression, through the Second World War, and well into the 1950s. However, in 1958, the Bulletin was deemed “neither a scientific report nor … designed for popular reading.” The decision was, therefore, made to replace it with a new popular periodical, Expedition, which would be larger, carry longer and richer articles, and, above all, many more photographs.

Expedition has told many stories over the years. Articles have included such diverse topics as “Hawaiian Feudalism,” “Easter Eggs and Easter Bread of Southeastern Pennsylvania,” as well as “Bread and Beer,” “The Exotic Sources of Gauguin’s Art,” and the “History of the Sleeved Coat.” Additionally, coverage of emerging developments in the field and in the lab has always kept Expedition readers up to date with the latest trends and technologies available to archaeologists and anthropologists. And while more serious issues, such as conserving artifacts and exposing forgeries were covered in its pages, readers also enjoyed Expedition’s lighter side, which featured poems (e.g. the only contribution to Expedition by Loren Eiseley), quizzes, unusual travel vignettes, and the occasional article with an intriguing title—for example, “The Tale of Pupily Eyeballs-Thing” or “On Tracking Woolly Kullis and the Like.”

The University Museum Bulletin volume 14 number 4 (1950)

In surveying Expedition’s half-century, it is important to note the role played by its editors, designers, and the long list of other individuals who contributed to its growth and development over the years.

Over the past 50 years, Expedition has had ten editors. The first, Geraldine Bruckner, began working in the Museum in 1921 as an Assistant in the Office of the Director. She was appointed the Museum’s first Registrar in 1928, and created the cataloging system still in use today. In 1957, she became Editor of the Bulletin, which transitioned to the new Expedition a year later. She was also the Museum’s first Archivist from 1964 to 1966, the year she retired. She continued as Expedition’s Editor, however, until 1971, and as Associate Editor until her death at age 82 in 1983.

Beginning in 1971, three faculty-curators served sequentially as Editor—Erle Leichty (1971–73), James D. Muhly (1973–78), and Bernard Wailes (1978–86)—bringing a more scholarly feel to Expedition. In general, the focus shifted away from Museum-related research reports and small, fun pieces toward the presentation of feature-length articles authored by researchers (not necessarily affiliated with the Museum) who were then edited to be accessible to the lay public.

In the mid-1980s, Director Robert H. Dyson, Jr., made a significant change by establishing the editorship as a full-time staff position in the Museum. He then appointed Mary M. Voigt (1986–90) and, later, Lee Horne (1990–96) to shepherd Expedition during the period when it transitioned to true color photography. Although its focus remained on accessible scholarship presented as well-edited feature articles, the increasing use of color made Expedition feel more like a true magazine.

The Spade volume 1 number 4 (1931) [bottom] The Spade volume 1 number 1 (1930) [top]
In the late 1990s, Expedition once again refocused its presentation under a new editorship. Helen Schenck (1996–2000), working closely with Jennifer Quick (who had served as Expedition’s Associate Editor since 1987), introduced a series of more popularly focused short articles to complement the magazine’s more scholarly feature articles. With the departmental headings “From the Archives,” “Research Notes,” “Science & Archaeology,” “Museum Mosaic,” and “What in the World,” the magazine took on a much friendlier feel for the lay reader. This refocusing was soon complemented by the decision to outsource the design of Expedition, making it the full-color, attractive publication it became under the editorship of Beebe Bahrami (2002–04).

Today, Expedition continues to entice readers with its attractive presentation of archaeology, anthropology, and fascinating accounts of the human experience as glimpsed through the Museum’s collections, exhibitions, research projects, and historical involvements, as well as the interesting feature articles it attracts from scholars all around the world who want to publish in Expedition and share in the adventure!

Children’s Magazines

Between 1930 and 1932 the Museum also published two children’s magazines. Discovery was aimed at young adults, with accounts of recent archaeological and anthropological explorations around the world, whereas The Spade, produced for younger readers, focused on ancient myths and featured original artwork by Mary Louise Baker and other artists employed by the Museum.

Cite This Article

Pezzati, Alex and Mathieu, James R.. "Is Your Mind Ready for Adventure?." Expedition Magazine 50, no. 3 (November, 2008): -. Accessed April 13, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to