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Penn Museum Teaching & Research

Academic Engagement for Penn Students

Harnessing the power of original artifacts, object-based learning is a student-centered approach shown in data to be a more effective method of learning than a lecture or talk. The Penn Museum’s Academic Engagement Program offers unique opportunities for students to engage closely with the more than one million objects and resources of the largest university museum in the world. From class visits to carrying out intensive research projects on individual artifacts to conducting archaeological field research across the globe, from curating special exhibitions to volunteering as docents, Penn students have the chance to work in the Museum’s collections, laboratories, galleries, and field sites through many programs.

students interacting with museum objects
  • Class visits are supported by Museum collections staff and dedicated collections study rooms. More than 100 faculty—from departments across Penn schools and departments—bring classes to study objects each year.
  • An 8-week Summer Internship Program welcomes college-age students from the region into every section of the Museum and features Intro to Museum Practice workshops each week.
  • Penn sophomores and juniors can participate in a year-long Academic Year Internship Program that introduces them to museum research and culminates in a final project.
  • Penn juniors and seniors can conduct a more intensive year-long advanced research project as Penn Museum Fellows, with access to the Museum’s collections, labs, and archival materials.
  • Undergraduates have the unique opportunity to plan, design, and install an exhibition—working closely with faculty and Museum staff—through Student Exhibition Internships.
  • Curatorial seminars provide students with extensive museological experience through the year-long research for and planning of a special exhibition.
  • Student Fieldwork Funds support undergraduate and graduate archaeological research in the field—a requirement for certain degrees that would be impossible for many students to accomplish without funding, and a unique opportunity many of them would not get elsewhere.
  • The Museum engages undergraduates through a broad range of programming, from evening social events to our Clio Society of undergraduate volunteers.

Advancing New Discoveries

The Penn Museum was established in 1887 with a groundbreaking act of archaeological field research—the first American expedition to ancient Babylonia to excavate the site of Nippur (now in modern-day Iraq). Since then, the Museum has undertaken over 300 research projects and continues an ambitious program of ongoing fieldwork and research. Fieldwork is at the heart of the Penn Museum’s mission to transform understanding of the human experience. A majority of Penn Museum curators, teaching specialists, research project managers, and consulting scholars are involved in active fieldwork projects, and in 2017, the Penn Museum supported, in total, field work at 43 projects in 21 countries, while other projects were in post-excavation seasons.

picture of field site

Recent discoveries exemplify the way Penn Museum field work continues to change our understanding of history. In 2014 in Abydos, Egypt a Penn Museum team led by Josef Wegner working in close cooperation with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown pharaoh: Woseribre Senebkay, and the first material proof of a forgotten Abydos Dynasty, ca. 1650–1600 BCE. King Senebkay’s tomb was close to a larger royal tomb, recently identified as belonging to a king Sobekhotep, (probably Sobekhotep I, ca. 1780 BCE) of the 13th Dynasty. More discoveries continue to follow each year.

Ready to make transformation possible?

For information on creating a named fund to endow or provide multi-year support of these programs or the key positions that advance them:


Penn Museum Major Gifts Office
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