Application Deadline: April 28, 2021
The Museum Assistantship Program offers paid semester-and year-long assistantship opportunities for Penn graduate students to work on projects within the Penn Museum. The program pairs Museum projects in need of research assistance with interested graduate students from related fields.
How to Apply
Applicants may apply to no more than two of the projects listed below.
Prior to completing the application form, you should prepare the following
- A brief (no more than 500 words) statement that addresses:
- Your interest in this project
- Your relevant experience and expertise
- A current academic CV
All accepted participants will be notified by mid-May.
This program is open to University of Pennsylvania graduate students.
Students who are members of groups underrepresented in Museum-related fields are particularly encouraged to apply.
To participate, you must be a full-time, active student, enrolled for the upcoming fall semester.
Compensation and Time Commitment
Assistants are paid $15 an hour and should expect to commit 2 to 5 hours per week, depending on the needs of the project.
Exact start and end dates will be determined by the project directors.
Charleston Foodways Project
Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)
Chantel White, Archaeobotanical Teaching Specialist for CAAM, and Katherine Moore, Mainwaring Teaching Specialist for Zooarchaeology and Practice Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
Year-Long, 3.5 hours per week
- Either ANTH 440 Plants and Society or ANTH 533 Archaeobotany Seminar
- ANTH 567 Living World in Archaeological Science or equivalent
- Proficiency in Excel (intermediate to advanced)
Through a partnership with the Historic Charleston Foundation and the Nathaniel Russell House Museum in South Carolina, CAAM teaching specialists Chantel White and Kate Moore have begun a research project analyzing plant and animal remains from a 19th century kitchen house. The two-story brick kitchen house was built in 1808, and initial investigations indicate that enslaved people carried out cooking, laundry, and sewing activities there. The second story was also used as a living and sleeping space. Behind the walls and floorboards of the structure, commensal rats created large caches of material they hoarded from the kitchen and brought in from the outdoor gardens and middens.
The contents of these caches are providing insight into the foods that were routinely being prepared by enslaved people. The botanical analysis carried out so far (Spring 2021) has provided evidence of the food plants that include plum pits, cherry pits, peach pits, bean fragments, peanut shells, and pecan nutshells. Plants found only rarely in archaeological contexts are included too: rice husks, seeds of bitter melon, and seeds of job’s tears. These last two plant species may represent plant species with medicinal value.
The Graduate Assistant’s role will include working with Chantel White to assist in the analysis of the archaeobotanical remains. The Graduate Assistant should ideally have some experience (coursework or lab work) in archaeological science, although they will be able to greatly expand their skills during the time of their assistantship. We anticipate that the Graduate Assistant (1) will help us identify and quantify botanical specimens, and will contribute to a growing list of taxa present in the assemblages; (2) will assist in generating a standardized sub-sampling protocol, and will work on initial sorting of samples; and (3) will contribute their findings to an Excel database of ongoing archaeobotanical work.
East Africa Project
Dwaune Latimer, Jean Friendly Keeper of Collections
Spring Semester, 5 hours per week
- Basic object photography and Bridge software (can be trained)
- Basic cataloguing skills
- Object handling and numbering skills (can be trained)
- Willingness to work remotely and in-person if needed
- Knowledge of a language spoken in East Africa helpful but not required
Catalogue and conduct research on artifacts from East Africa. The Museum Assistant will complete data entry, write (or update) object descriptions, number objects, photograph, and compile a research file for each object.
Exhibiting Anthropology @ Penn
American/Asian Section/Dept. of Anthropology
Kathy Morrison and Meg Kassabaum
- Experience with Anthropology Department/history of anthropology
- Visual design skills
The Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania has a long and noteworthy history. In the late 19th century, the Department emerged as one of the earliest examples of an academic program dedicated to the comprehensive and professional scholarship of what it means to be human. It grew during the 1950s and 60s, establishing its reputation as a premiere hub of anthropological scholarship. The Department's present approach is dedicated to exploring humanity through archaeological, linguistic, biological, cultural, and a variety of other perspectives. We acknowledge that where we are today has been shaped by an exceptional lineage of anthropological scholars. Click here for more information.
Until recently, this storied history was documented in a series of photographs of emeritus professors in the third floor Academic Wing hallway; however, this display left out the contributions of many other important individuals and downplayed the role of current scholars in building upon the work of its pioneers to chart new paths for understanding what it means to be human. The graduate assistant(s) for the Exhibiting Anthropology@Penn Project would continue the work done prior to the Covid-19 pandemic to develop a new exhibit that more appropriately encapsulates the past, present, and future of Anthropology at Penn.
- Researching the history of the Department through archival sources, etc.
- Collaborating with current and past members of the Department.
- Preparing visuals and written content for display in the hallway.
- Collaborating with Penn Museum staff during the process of interpretation, construction, and installation.
Global Food Tour
Group Sales and Academic Engagement
Amanda Grady, Group Sales Manager, and Sarah Linn, Research Liaison
Fall Semester, 5 hours per week
- Should be able to work remotely
- Background in Anthropology, Archaeology, History, Art History, or related field
- Background in collections research, with demonstrated experience in creating engaging and accessible public programs
- Excellent organizational, communication, writing, and strategic thinking skills
- Must have an interest in food and foodways
The Penn Museum’s Group Sales Department and Academic Engagement seeks a Museum Assistant to work directly with the Group Sales Manager and Research Liaison on the creation of a Guided Tour about food (both in-person and virtual). This tour aims to make connections between Penn Museum objects and the contemporary world as way to engage audiences with relatable and relevant topics like food, diet, cooking, etc.
For this project, you will be asked to research the Penn Museum collections, work with the supervisors to finalize your tour concept, develop the tour outline including interactive audience experiences, write the full 50 to 75-minute tour, and compile any visuals that may be used to enhance program.
Historical Greenhouse Artifact Project
Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)
Marie-Claude Boileau, Director, CAAM
Fall Semester or Year-Long
- Willingness to work in-person in CAAM and, if needed, at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia
- Interest in historical archaeology
- Basic photography and cataloguing skills
- Recommended: Experience, through coursework or lab work, with a range of materials, such as ceramics, glass, architectural debris, metal, faunal remains, and others.
In partnership with The Woodlands (Philadelphia), this project focuses on the artifactual evidence associated with William Hamilton’s 1792 greenhouse. Hamilton (1745-1813) was a well-known botanist and collector of rare and exotic plants. At The Woodlands, a large estate located on the west banks of the Schuylkill River in West Philadelphia, he built an expansive greenhouse that contained his unique collection of some 10,000 plants. The greenhouse was destroyed in the 1850s but remnants of a sunken pathway leading toward the greenhouse and a possible portion of the greenhouse foundation were excavated in 2009-2011.
This project aims to document the excavated artifacts related to the operation and destruction of the greenhouse (e.g., planting pots, copper wires, iron nails, window glass), and trash from the main house, especially the kitchen (faunal remains). There are also large numbers of late 18th to early 19th century fine ceramic wares.
The Museum Assistant will (1) handle, document, and photograph the different types of artifacts associated with the greenhouse, (2) create a catalogue and (3) research diagnostic ceramic (fine decorated types and utilitarian redwares) and glass (window and bottles) types to confirm late 18th to early 19th century date of assemblage.
Ksar Akil Lithics Project
Near East Section
Katy Blanchard, Fowler/Van Santvoord Keeper of the Near Eastern Collections
Fall or Spring Semester, 5 hours per week
- Familiarity with lithic typology, as relevant to the Upper Paleolithic
- Object handling and object numbering skills (can be trained)
- Object photography and Bridge software (can be trained, but some knowledge will be helpful)
The Museum was gifted a subset of Father Ewing's findings from the Upper Paleolithic site of Ksar Akil in the early 1950s. It has never been fully processed by the Museum. This collection needs to be researched in Archives for full documentation of what came to us. Ideally, a list of other museums with material from this site will be created as well. The Museum Assistant will need to create the records for each object, numbering each lithic as appropriate, photographing each piece, and systematically describing the entire collection.
Partnership and Community Models with Public Engagement
Tena Thomason, Associate Director of Public Engagement
Fall Semester, 5 hours per week
- Skills with data visualization and analysis
- Interest in community engagement
Working with the Public Engagement department, the Museum Assistant will help to research different partnership and community engagement models that are used by museums, arts organizations, and nonprofits. Through research, they will compile, format, and assist in facilitating reports on different models/programs that the Penn Museum could consider to further its work with community groups and future partnerships.
West Philadelphia Community Archaeology
Public Engagement/Dept. of Anthropology
Douglas Smit, Zoë Evans, and Meg Kassabaum
- Experience with community-based approaches to archaeology and heritage, such as Photovoice, oral history collection, or collaborative workshops
- Museum and/or collections background
The West Philadelphia Community Archaeology project is a recently developed collaborative program between the Penn Museum, the Department of Anthropology, and trusted local organizations serving the broader West Philadelphia community. Our core objective is to confront troubling histories of racial and social injustice in West Philadelphia, specifically those of the historically Black neighborhoods north of Market Street. Our plans for the 2021-2022 academic year include a Photovoice project (Summer/Fall 2021) and the creation of a community archive (Spring 2022).
The graduate assistant(s) will work with project directors on a variety of components throughout the academic year, assisting in the development of a series of workshops, a pop-up exhibit on Photovoice during the Decolonizing the Museum conference (Fall 2021), and the physical and digital curation of the archive and an exhibit that highlights the community archive.
The Museum Assistant’s role will include:
- Collaborating with Photovoice participants (interviews, digital curation)
- Assisting in community workshop development
- Researching West Philadelphian histories associated with the community archive
- Working with community members during archive and exhibit development