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Penn Museum: History with Style

Kay headshot

ca 1400 BCE, Frog amulet, Kassite Babylonia

As you may or may not know, UDPL checks out museum passes for free! Each pass is a family pass, letting in 2 adults and between 3-6 kids. It’s one of our most popular programs and Upper Dublin residents can book our passes up to 3 months in advance. However, the question we get a lot of is, “So, what’s at this museum?” Ever one to be of service to the community, I have thrown myself into checking out the local museums. After all, I grew up in Maine, which has lots of lovely scenery, but let’s face it, is a little lacking in the big awesome museum category.

Kids toys from Iraq with wheels, ca. 3700-1900 BCE. Can you imagine playing with one of these?

The museum I chose this time was Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. They’re in the middle of a huge renovation right now updating most of their galleries to include air conditioning. (The guard told me that they used to call going to the museum in summer “an immersion experience.” Having tried this several years ago, boy were they right. I’m surprised I didn’t get heat stroke.)

However, while a lot of the galleries are closed, they have recently opened their newly refurbished Middle East Gallery including the stunning finds at the Royal Cemetary of Ur, 2600 BCE. Each display now has a digital display to go with it, so if you want to know what something is, you need to find it on the display.

Detail of some of Queen Puabi’s jewelry. Wouldn’t this be amazing in polymer clay?

The exhibition details humanity’s rise from small settlements to big city living for the first time. There are all the highlights that you see online-the stunning Ram in the Thicket statue and Queen Puabi’s burial outfit but I found myself more interested in the little details of ordinary life: the seals for commerce, the toys for kids and the statues for worship. I had seen the exhibit before it was updated. In fact, as I visited during the summer and it was one of the few air conditioned galleries available, I went through it very carefully reading all the information slowly as I really did not want to leave. Compared to what it was, the new gallery is at least three times larger than the old one and has many more artifacts that I don’t remember seeing in the old configuration.

A seal showing saluki dogs!

I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive in going. I have lately been getting back into polymer clay and some of the objects in the museum are crying out to be remade in polymer or even, dare I say it, metal clay which bakes off the clay and leaves you with a metal object. More on that this fall, as I will be doing another polymer clay class for all (on much easier subjects, I promise.)

Overall, the Middle Eastern gallery was a great experience. If this is the  quality of all of their refurbished galleries, I can’t wait to see the upcoming Africa Galleries and Mexico & Central America Gallery which will open this fall. We have two Penn Museum passes, so one is almost always available. Take your family today!

 

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