Since its founding in 1887, the Penn Museum has collected nearly one million objects, many obtained directly through its own field excavations or anthropological research. The Museum's vast and varied collections are in active service to the University of Pennsylvania community and researchers from all over the world. Research Access to the Collections The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages researchers to make use of its collections. Read More: Research Access to the Collections Teaching Access to the Collections The Penn Museum welcomes and encourages Penn faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants to make use of its collections. Read More: For Penn Instructors Request Object Photography/Illustration The Penn Museum welcomes requests for object photography and illustration reproductions. Read More: Request Object Photography/Illustration
The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is dedicated to expanding both scholarly and public awareness and promoting discussion and debate about the complex issues surrounding the world’s rich—and endangered—cultural heritage. 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. The Penn CHC. The PennCHC projects create opportunities for international and national partnerships and intercultural dialogues. Visit Website Support Penn CHC. Support the Penn Cultural Heritage Center in its mission, projects, and partnerships around the world. Your gifts make a difference. Support PennCHC Now! 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: Education and outreach programming for diverse audiences, including law enforcement, customs officers, lawyers, policymakers, and academics involved in cultural property protection and issues—as well as community stakeholders and the general public. The Center has built upon earlier Museum training programs with United States officers to help stop the illicit movement of antiquities. Consultation on national and international policy issues, working with Ministries of Culture and other governmental groups to develop a holistic approach in the management of cultural heritage at local, national, and international levels. The Center is currently consulting with agencies in Mali, Montenegro, and Honduras, with long-range plans to build this capacity. Conferences, with opportunities for in-depth dialog, publication, and, where appropriate, concluding public presentations. 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.
The Penn Museum's Conservation Department is tasked with the long term preservation and conservation of the Museum's object collections. Working with other Museum staff, our duties include: review, treatment, and setting exhibition parameters for all objects going on exhibition or out on loan setting travel requirements for all objects going on loan or traveling as part of an exhibition working with Collections staff to provide the best possible environment for the long term preservation of collections in storage providing conservation consultation for Museum staff, researchers, students, and the general public Currently, we have three staff conservators, five Project Conservators, one Post-graduate Fellow, one Curriculum Intern and two Conservation Technicians. Additionally, we usually have a number of pre-program interns helping out. The Museum’s Conservation Department was founded in 1966. In September 2014 we moved into newly renovated spaces, custom designed for our program. These include a large treatment lab with area ventilation; a walk-in fume hood; a separate office space; a "clean space" for working on textiles, paper artifacts, matting, and storage mounts; a digital x-ray suite and laser-cleaning station; a dedicated photography area; and a seminar room/library. These wonderful new facilities have greatly facilitated our work and made our Department better able to serve the Museum’s needs in the 21st Century. Conservation Surveys Conservation Projects
The Physical Anthropology Section curates extensive skeletal human and primate collections from all around the world. In total, approximately 10,000 individuals in various states of preservation with both historic and archaeological materials. Collection History The most extensive historic collection is the Samuel Morton collection of over 1500 human crania amassed in the middle of the 19th Century. Two large skeletal collections, both from Iran, form the core of the collection: Tepe Hissar (excavated in 1931 by Erich Schmidt) and Hasanlu (excavated from 1957 to 1977 under the leadership of Robert Dyson). Both collections contain over 250 well preserved skeletons each. In 2002, the Penn Museum began to develop a large CT scan database of the collections funded by the National Science Foundation - PI Thomas Schoenemann and co-PI Janet Monge; award number: 0447271. Over 3000 skeletal elements (mostly crania) have been CT scanned to date. See a short review of the history of the collection See a complete database listing Read about the Morton Skull Collection: Lewis JE, DeGusta D, Meyer MR, Monge JM, Mann AE, et al. (2011) The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias. PLoS Biol 9(6): e1001071. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001071
The Oceanian collections of the Penn Museum include over 22,000 objects from all the major island groups of the Pacific (Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia), insular Southeast Asia, and Australia. Except for a very limited number of archaeological specimens, the collections are ethnographic, representing the material culture of the Pacific peoples from the mid-19th century to the present. Collection History The Oceanian collections were assembled through gifts, purchases and Museum-sponsored expeditions. An early assemblage of Polynesian material collected by C.D. Voy, and a large number of objects acquired in Borneo, Sumatra and the Caroline Islands by William H. Furness 3rd, Alfred C. Harrison, Jr., and H.M. Hiller, were among the founding collections of the Museum. In the first two decades of the 20th century, the collections from the Pacific Islands were greatly expanded by purchases from the dealers W.O. Oldman of London and J.F.G. Umlauff of Hamburg. Also acquired in this period were a Sepik River collection purchased from Max Boehmig of Dresden and Philippines materials collected by the sisters Elizabeth and Sarah Metcalf. Since then, the collections have continued to grow, through donations and from Museum expeditions to Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. View Highlights From the Oceanian Section From a Micronesian coconut grater stool to Javanese puppets, the Oceanian Collection is a diverse and colorful assemblage of ethnographic material. View Highlights