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. Our collections include objects from the African Section, American Section, Asian Section, Babylonian Section, Egyptian Section, European Archaeology Section, Historical Archaeology Section, Mediterranean Section, Near East Section, Oceanian Section, and Physical Anthropology Section.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum was the first institution to take a public stand on the highly controversial subject of cultural heritage policy. On April 1, 1970, the Museum issued what came to be known as the Pennsylvania Declaration, stating that no object would be purchased unless accompanied by a pedigree, including "information about the different owners, place of origin, legality of export, etc." Read more about the Pennsylvania Declaration.


2012 marks the 125th anniversary of the Penn Museum. As part of the year-long celebration, the Museum has launched its online Collection Database now available at www.penn.museum/collections

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Access to the Collections
Read about access  to our collections for Penn Instructors and for Researchers.

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  • About our Collections

    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.

    Search the Collections Database


  • Collections Access

    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.

    Search the Collections Database


  • Collections Highlights
  • Conservation

    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

    Additionally, we have a number of work-study students and pre-program interns helping out.

    A view of one of the Conservation Department’s temporary lab spaces in the Mainwaring Wing. For the past three years, the Conservation Department has been housed in temporary workspaces in the Museum’s Mainwaring Wing while our usual permanent space in the bottom level of the West Wing of the Original 1899 building undergoes extensive renovation. This has provided the opportunity to plan new, enlarged, and improved laboratory spaces. These will 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.


    Conservation Projects

  • Cultural Heritage
  • Donate an Object
  • Loan Procedures
  • NAGPRA

    During a Tlingit consultation visit in January 2008, Andrew Gamble, Jr. (Kaagwaantaan clan leader), Herman Davis (L’ooknax. ádi clan leader), and Tom Young (Kaagwaantaan Box House leader) donned Tlingit clan regalia, including three hats in the Penn Museum’s collections. Photo by Robert W. Preucel The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

    On 17 November 1990, “The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act” (PL 101-601) was signed into law. This act mandates the return of specific kinds of objects to Native Americans, makes illegal their trafficking across state lines, and is specific about the process and procedures for archaeological excavations. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) is primarily affected by the first of these three requirements, involving museum collections. Five categories of objects are identified in the law: human remains, associated funerary objects, unassociated funerary objects, objects of cultural patrimony, and sacred objects. 

    Since the passage of NAGPRA, and in compliance with the law, the Penn Museum has mailed over 1000 letters to federally recognized tribes informing them of our holdings and extending invitations to consult with us about our holdings. As of 2011, 42 formal repatriation claims seeking the return of collections have been received and 25 repatriations have been completed resulting in the transfer of 232 sets of human remains, 750 funerary objects, 14 unassociated funerary objects, 20 objects of cultural patrimony, 22 sacred objects and 2 object claimed as both cultural patrimony and sacred.

    In the spirit of the law, Penn Museum’s repatriation staff has worked vigorously to accurately inventory and research our collections, and to inform, consult and cooperate successfully with tribes about the items in our care. Observing and listening to native representatives talk about the objects has in several cases been especially rewarding and informative - in a very real sense, it has brought life to the collections.

    NAGPRA has simultaneously forced us to face a variety of difficult challenges, some solutions to which are still evolving as the repatriation process unfolds. Finding common ground between native interpretations of the law and those of the Museum has been a particular test, and it is in this area that ongoing discussions with tribes are most often focused.

    For more information about NAGPRA please see the National Park Service (U.S. Department of the Interior) National NAGPRA website.

    Inquiries about repatriation concerns and procedures should be submitted in writing to:

    Contact
    Richard Hodges
    The Williams Director
    University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
    3260 South Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324

  • Objects on Loan

    The Penn Museum has an active loan program involving institutions all over the world. Encompassing artifacts from the Museum's many sections—African, American, Asian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Mediterranean, Near East, and Oceanian—as well as the Museum Archives, these loans generally form part of larger exhibitions curated and designed by other museums, either for showcase in their own galleries or for the purpose of traveling to multiple venues.

    By agreeing to loan our objects and participate in these exhibitions, we share our extraordinary collections with audiences that may never have the chance to visit the Penn Museum. Loaning objects also provides scholars the opportunity to interpret our collections in light of their own interests, allowing for a diversity of narratives told through the use of our collections.

    If your museum is interested in borrowing from our collection, please read our Loan Procedures.

    Contact:
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    (215) 746-6975


     

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