Pamela Hearne Jardine: An Appreciation

By: Jeremy A. Sabloff

Originally Published in 2021

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This is not an obituary but an appreciation of all that Pam Jardine (1939–2021) accomplished and contributed during her many years of extraordinary service at the Penn Museum.

Black and white photo of Pamela Hearne and Robert Sharer looking at a pendant
Pamela Hearne (later Jardine) with Curator-in-Charge of the American Section Robert Sharer, preparing the exhibition River of Gold: Pre-Colombian Treasures from Sitio Conte, 1988. They are examining the jaguar pendant, object no. 40-13-27.
Museum Object Number(s): 40-13-27

Pam Jardine had major impacts on the Penn Museum, both tangible and intangible during her Penn Museum career that spanned more than a quarter century. Here are just some of the highlights.

First, and most important, was her interactions with colleagues, students, and visitors. Pam, in her roles as Keeper of the American Section and the Assistant Director for Museum Services, was a superb person to work with. She was warm, supportive, and a good listener. She helped launch and advance the careers of others, and she always had the welfare of the Museum in mind. To put it succinctly, she was a cheerful, outgoing, and positive person, who helped inspire those around her and was dedicated to the Museum.

Second, in the realm of collections management, Pam was a key figure in the ongoing professionalization of collections activities and practices in the American Section in particular, and the Museum in general. She was interested in registrarial activities and strove to have all the objects in the Museum’s collection as fully catalogued as possible. Key Museum areas such as conservation, exhibit preparation, and the archives also grew in strength and prominence under Pam’s watch. She welcomed consultations with Native American tribes. She also was concerned with the safe use of perishable collections that had been doused with chemicals, such as arsenic, earlier in the Museum’s history in order to preserve objects while, unfortunately, putting people who handled the collections at potential risk. She worked diligently to make sure that those who handled such objects were protected.

In keeping with Pam’s constant concern with improving the care and accessibility of the Museum’s large and diverse collection, she also was a strong supporter of the major effort to first conceive and then build the Mainwaring Wing for collections research and storage to better house the Museum’s key but vulnerable perishable collections and provide new offices for section keepers.

Third, she was a tireless promoter of both upgrading exhibitions in the Museum and helping organize travelling exhibitions that would show o! the Museum’s incredible collections and make them available to a broader public outside of the Philadelphia region, as well as enhance the image of the Museum throughout the country and the world.

A display of Pueblo Indian pottery
Display from Beauty from the Earth, a major exhibition of the Penn Museum’s Pueblo Indian pottery curated by J.J. Brody which, under Pamela’s direction, was on display at the Museum from November 1990– December 1991 and then at several museums across the U.S.

Whether she curated an exhibition herself or worked with Penn Museum or visiting curators and scholars to produce an exhibition, she always strove to have the exhibition meet the highest professional standards, be aesthetically pleasing, and help educate the publics that viewed it.

Some examples of her great successes in travelling exhibitions include the popular River of Gold: Precolumbian Treasures from Sitio Conte exhibition that showcased the striking gold objects that were uncovered in the Museum’s excavations at the Sitio Conte site in Panama. Working with Robert Sharer, the Curator-inCharge of the American Section, Pam helped put together a beautiful exhibition that travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among other important venues. Other key travelling exhibitions that were created under her watch included Pomo Indian Basket Weavers, Their Baskets, and the Art Market, curated by Sally McLendon and Judith Berman, which featured some of the beautiful, well-documented baskets in the Museum’s collection. The programming surrounding the exhibition spotlighted contemporary Pomo basket weavers and the environmental problems they faced in obtaining the materials for their weaving. Most importantly, the exhibition travelled to the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, California, in the modern homeland of the Pomo people. The blockbuster exhibition Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, curated by Richard Zettler, which travelled to such venues as the Morgan Library in New York, was a major triumph during Pam’s tenure, as was Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture and Artifacts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, jointly organized with the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by David Silverman, which travelled with great acclaim to many venues from Dallas to Honolulu. Finally, working with Ruben Reina of the American Section, Pam helped put together a 1985 exhibition of Guatemalan huiples for a show at the Arthur Ross Gallery on campus entitled Silent Language of Guatemalan Textiles (1985).

In sum, Pam’s importance to the Museum cannot be overstated. She was well liked and highly respected. Today’s Penn Museum owes much to Pam’s great efforts in modernizing and professionalizing many of the Museum’s core activities. She will be long remembered for these important achievements.

A section of the interior wall of a tipi, with a painted geometric design
A Lodge Hanging (the interior wall of a tipi), PM 45-15-709, part of a collection of 267 objects made on the Blackfeet Reservation (Pikuni or Piegan Blackfeet) by Charles Hallowell Stephens, a Philadelphia artist who spent four months in the summer of 1891 living among the Pikuni who gave him the name “Picture Maker” at his adoption. His time there was the focus of Pamela’s doctoral dissertation. Her admiration for him and work with that collection occupied a special place in her heart.
Museum Object Number(s): 45-15-709

Jerry Sabloff C64, a 2014 recipient of the Penn Museum’s Lucy Wharton Drexel Medal, was Williams Director of the Museum from 1994 to 2004 and is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at Penn and an External Faculty Fellow and Past President at the Santa Fe Institute.

Cite This Article

Sabloff, Jeremy A.. "Pamela Hearne Jardine: An Appreciation." Expedition Magazine 63, no. 3 (December, 2021): -. Accessed May 29, 2024.

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

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