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COUNCIL: State of the University

October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09

Loa Traxler

It is my pleasure to report on the success of multiple initiatives at the Penn Museum that speak to our role as a vital resource in the academic mission of the University. Supported by generous funding from outside the University, as well as by strategic support from within, our collaborative efforts aim to enhance Penn’s academic programs and to integrate its diverse students in the research and public life of the Museum. I serve as the Andrew W. Mellon Associate Deputy Director of the Penn Museum, a position that was created with a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, championed by our director, Richard Hodges, and deputy director, C. Brian Rose. My position is one of academic liaison between the Museum and our campus community, and we have in recent months advanced on many fronts.  

You’ve heard Dr. Hodges report in other venues about the revitalized exhibition program that we’ve undertaken at the Penn Museum. This provides opportunities to showcase the dynamic research and contributions of the PIK professors here at Penn. Our collaboration with Philippe Bourgois, co-curator for the Righteous Dopefiend exhibition on display at the Museum, exemplifies melding the intellectual energy of our academic colleagues into the public discourse within the museum. In addition to the Righteous Dopefiend exhibition, we recently opened Archeologists and Travelers in Ottoman Lands. Through this collaborative project co-curators and professors in the History of Art, Robert Ousterhout and Renata Holod, worked closely with undergraduate and graduate students engaged in a Halpern-Rogath Curatorial Seminar to interpret material from the Museum’s earliest excavations. The Museum provides these and other opportunities for students to work closely with curators and academic leaders resulting in public exhibitions with bold concepts and fresh insights. 

In addition to the exhibition program, several student initiatives at the Penn Museum made great strides over the summer months. In collaboration with the College of Liberal and Professional Studies and SAS, Penn Museum sponsored its first for-credit archaeological excavation opportunities in foreign countries. Dr. Hodges directed one of these excavations at the site of San Pietro d’Asso in Tuscany, Italy. These Global Archaeology Field Projects provide a means for undergraduates at Penn and regional universities to gain academic credit and excavation experience through the LPS Summer Program. The field course, with individual sections held at archaeological sites in Greece and Italy, links active Penn Museum research with the curriculum in SAS departments including Classics, Anthropology and History of Art.

The Penn Museum Summer Internship Program expanded in 2010 to involve over 50 student interns from Penn, as well as other regional and international universities. We are grateful to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships for providing the financial support for several of our student interns, and others volunteered their time to gain hands-on experience with Museum collections, research projects, and arts administration. We intend to expand our cultivation efforts with donors to support more funded internship opportunities in the future. 

Our Penn Museum Summer Field Research Grants provided support for dedicated undergraduate and graduate students to pursue their individual research projects in Archaeology and Anthropology. In 2010, a dozen students from the SAS, GAS, and School of Design received support to work in locations around the world from Azerbaijan to Morocco, from Arkansas to New Jersey.

We also have new initiatives currently in development. The Penn Museum, the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, and the Architectural Conservation Laboratory at the School of Design are collaborating on the formation of a new Center for Archaeological Site Conservation. This interdisciplinary center will provide training and a certificate program in professional site management and conservation. The program will be open to Penn graduate students and international career professionals seeking advanced training in contemporary site management theory and practices. Penn Museum’s long-standing international research programs and relationships will serve as a foundation on which to build this program, which the Museum and GPHP are perhaps uniquely positioned to promote and, by so doing, to effect positive changes for the future of cultural heritage sites around the world. 

Another aspect of our work is focused on integrating more students in the public life of the Penn Museum. The Clio Society, formed in 2009, provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to train and become museum guides. Students hailing from multiple departments work closely with Penn Museum staff to become familiar with gallery exhibitions, Museum collections, and docent techniques. Following a volunteer program of research, training and practice, students can lead tours for the campus community and interact with visitors in the galleries. Last year we launched this program with a group of 20 students from SAS, Wharton, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Our returning undergraduates recently put out the call for new members, and I am happy to report we have another 20 new students who will be joining the program this year.

Finally, we have actively encouraged and helped organize two different student advisory groups for the Penn Museum. The Penn Museum Student Advisory Board represents the undergraduate student communities, while the Multidisciplinary Graduate Advisory Board speaks to the interests of our graduate and professional students. Both groups are reviewing the academic curriculum in multiple departments to identify how the resources of the Penn Museum can be better incorporated in classes and student research projects. These groups also help organize outreach programs for our student communities and promote Penn Museum events in University City.





Almanac - October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09