Typically the Penn Museum is learning and sharing material culture of past civilizations. A direct partnership with Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia is allowing the Museum to donate to the creation of modern-day material culture by recycling its exterior fabric banners into messenger bags, gift bags, and lunch totes.
It began with the fabric banners that flew along South Street in front of the Museum to promote the "Maya 2012: Lords of Time" exhibition. Art Director Tina Jones heard about the University's "Penn MOVES" program, where students preparing to leave campus for the summer can drop off gently used items they no longer need. Once the "Maya 2012" exhibition closed, the banners moved to the floor of Tina's office. Unsure whether Goodwill would be interested, or how they could be repurposed, she offered the banners through Penn MOVES.
These days, she's in direct contact with Goodwill Industries' North 7th Street location. Earlier this spring, the Museum donated its third set of 12 exterior banners, plus a few interior banners.
According to Ray Newstadt, Reentry Program Site Manager, each 4' x 9' banner makes 6-14 bags, depending on the size and design. The Museum's banners feature three layers of fabric, offering more design flexibility to the team of tailors. Separating the layers boosts production quantity, while using the combined layers improves durability. The tailors' designs have expanded, from first creating large, open, vinyl shopping totes, to the lined messenger bags and lunch totes they now produce. The Goodwill production team averages 8-12 finished bags per day, on par with their daily goal of 10-12 finished bags.
Interestingly, the current production team is all men, breaking gender stereotypes. "They're the only people who have recently come to us with sewing experience," Ray said.
Everyone wins in the banners to bags partnership—individuals across the city develop job skills, and retail sales of the bags in various Goodwill stores help fund Adult Basic Education and GED preparation classes offered at local Goodwill sites. For the Museum, it's another way to be more environmentally friendly.
"This partnership really is about Goodwill. It creates Goodwill," said Ray. "It's more than just a bag."
Images (top to bottom): Measuring the dimensions of a banner donated by the Penn Museum (Photo: Goodwill Industries); Goodwill Industries' Lead Sewing Machine Operator Peter Carter creates a tote bag from the image portion of a banner donated by the Penn Museum (Photo: Goodwill Industries); Goodwill Industries offers a variety of bags repurposed from donated Penn Museum banners, with proceeds helping fund Goodwill's Adult Basic Education and GED preparation classes (Photo: Goodwill Industries).