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Museum Assistantship Program

Application Deadline: April 22, 2022

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
  • One letter of recommendation from a professor, academic advisor, or employer who can speak to your qualifications for the project to which you are applying. The letter must be sent separately via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the applicant’s full name in the subject line.

All accepted participants will be notified by mid-May.


Eligibility

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.



Projects

3D Modeling Using Photogrammetry and Creation of Ortho-Mosaics on Monumental Egyptian Objects

Department/Section

Conservation

Project Supervisor(s)

Tessa de Alarcon, Project Conservator, and Alexis North, Project Conservator

Time Commitment

Fall semester

Requirements

We are looking for a graduate student with experience and interest in 3D modeling. Experience with creating 3D models using photogrammetry is required and we would prefer students with experience using Reality Capture.

Project Description

The assistant will be working closely with the Conservation Department to do image capture for photogrammetry of objects in the upper Egyptian gallery. The assistant will use a Conservation Department camera for imaging and will process the images using Reality Capture software in the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) computer lab. From the 3D model the assistant will create 2D ortho-mosaics that will be used by the conservators as before treatment documentation and for annotating condition issues (condition mapping). Time permitting, the assistant may also help with after treatment documentation using the same procedure.


After Islamic State: Heritage and Humanitarianism in the Middle East

Department/Section

Penn Museum, Anthropology, Historic Preservation

Project Supervisor(s)

Lynn Meskell, PIK Professor of Anthropology; Professor of Historic Preservation, Weitzman School of Design

Time Commitment

Semester or year-long, flexible

Requirements
  • Background in Archaeology, Preservation, History, Art History, or related field
  • Excellent organizational, communication, writing, and strategic thinking skills
  • Proficiency in Excel
  • Foreign language/s an advantage but not required
Project Description

This is an international multidisciplinary partnership examining UNESCO, conservation NGOs, funding, humanitarianism, and security in the Middle East. Since the Iraq war of 2003 and the Syrian civil war from 2011, the people of Syria and Iraq have witnessed a cataclysmic wave of both human suffering and heritage destruction. After Islamic State https://web.sas.upenn.edu/afterislamicstate/, is the first project to document the opinions of ordinary Syrians and Iraqis about the destruction and reconstruction of sites following the devastation unleashed by the Islamic State. A number of global bodies have launched initiatives to protect and reconstruct heritage. While such efforts are undoubtedly well-intentioned, they often rely on problematic assumptions about how people value and engage with their heritage, how they perceive and interpret its destruction, and the value they place on its reconstruction. Instead of a top down approach, we work with the Arab Barometer (Princeton) and an international team from the region. To date, the views of some 1600 residents of Mosul have been gathered to document some of the most pressing issues that they face from security, employment and healthcare – not simply heritage preservation.

The assistant’s role will include working with Professor Meskell and her international team on the AIS project on the Iraqi survey data, analyzing organizations including UNESCO, ALIPH, WMF and their funding streams, the role of museums such as the Louvre, nations including France, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, and influence of individual donors. If time permits, there may also be an historical component based on excavation reports in the Penn Museum Archives. While this work is already underway, the assistant would be asked to trace the colonial history of archaeology, territorial claims and sectarian conflicts that have had lasting implications in the region to this day.

Curatorial Assistant for Native North American Exhibition

Department/Section

American Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Lucy Fowler Williams, Curator-in-Charge of the American Section

Time Commitment

Fall semester

Requirements

Attention to detail, excellent writing and research skills required; demonstrated background and interest in Indigenous American cultures and histories preferred. 

Project Description

Assist American Section Curator-in-Charge with Native North American exhibition project planning and development. 


English Translations of Sixth-Century Chinese Buddhist Inscriptions and Epitaphs

Department/Section

Asian Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Adam Smith, Associate Curator of the Asian Section

Time Commitment

Semester or year-long

Requirements

Ability to read modern and premodern Chinese, and research skills in medieval Chinese literature or history essential. Basic digital humanities skills (text processing with Python, HTML/CSS, database/spreadsheet skills etc.) would be a plus, but not essential.

Project Description

Donor inscriptions on stone and metal Buddhist statues, commemorative stele inscriptions, and tomb epitaphs are the most important sources for social and religious history of the north China region during the 6th century (before the Sui and Tang empires). The Penn Museum is also home to several important examples of Buddhist donor inscriptions. Many hundreds of these inscriptions have been and continue to be excavated and published. Some have been translated and discussed in English-language publications, but these are scattered in numerous articles and book chapters. This project aims to gather existing English translations and to produce new ones, together with their original Chinese text.


Eternal Soldier Story Map

Department/Section

Community Engagement

Project Supervisor(s)

Kimberly “Max” Brown, Consulting Scholar in the Mediterranean Section, and Tena Thomason, Associate Director of Community Engagement

Time Commitment

Year-long

Requirements

Background in Archaeology, Anthropology History or Classics; Experience with Community based approaches to heritage; Interest in Veteran stories and experiences; Some experience with mapping software (Arc GIS or similar); Background in creating engaging and accessible public programs, Excellent organizational, communication, writing and strategic thinking skills.

Project Description

Our intent is to make the Penn Museum collection available to Veterans in new and exciting ways, while also increasing the ability of non-Veterans to learn what’s culturally important to Veterans. A Story Map is an interactive itinerary of objects and places coupled with geographic location, multimedia content and detailed information, all pulled together to tell a story. Many cities utilize story maps to highlight cultural institutions, local businesses, historical sites and local lore for visitors. Similar to a museum tour, an Eternal Soldier Story Map would feature the Penn Museum collection but with a focus on Veteran curated objects united to tell Veterans’ stories. Sometimes it is easier to understand modern conflicts through the lens of ancient wars, resulting in new ideas and observations about the perennial nature of military service, combat, Veterans and society. The idea is to illustrate modern Veteran experience in combination with a historical perspective of military service through time utilizing the Museum’s collection. The artifacts and ideas presented in the story map need not be limited to military themes, although that would be a question for all participants.

With direct support from Eternal Soldier leadership, the candidate will engage and partner with a team of 6-10 Veterans, first to learn their stories and important themes related to military service, and second, to usher them through the creation of the story map. The Assistant will support the Veterans through researching the Museum collection related to Veteran service and post-deployment, and together with Veterans will finalize story map concepts, create an outline, write the tour content and compile visuals. Under the direction of Eternal Soldier, the Assistant will be responsible for designing and executing the final Story Map, which will be made available to the public through the Eternal Soldier website.


Foodways Exhibit Component — Local Cuisine Connections

Department/Section

Exhibitions

Project Supervisor(s)

Jessica Bicknell, Head of Exhibitions; Lauren Cooper, Interpretive Planner; Katherine Moore, Curator; Chantel White, Curator

Time Commitment

Fall semester

Requirements

Comfort interacting with others, going out into the community on/off campus, ability to track content and compile information, good organizational and writing skills are a help. Other languages are a plus. Helpful (but not required) to have a background or interest in food history, anthropology of food, or archaeological studies of food.

Project Description

This project would entail reaching out to local restaurants, food organizations, or gardens to make connections and compile stories and/or recipes for possible inclusion in a Penn Museum exhibition about studying food and food traditions.


Historical Greenhouse Artifacts Project

Department/Section

Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)

Project Supervisor(s)

Marie-Claude Boileau, Director of CAAM

Time Commitment

Fall semester or year-long

Requirements

Willingness to work in-person, in CAAM and, if needed, at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia. Interest in historical archaeology. Recommended: Experience through coursework or lab work working with a range of materials including, but not limited to, ceramics, glass, architectural debris, metal, and faunal remains. Basic photography and cataloguing skills.

Project Description

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 which 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 (i.e. planting pots, copper wires, iron nails, architectural debris including window glass), and trash from the main house, especially the kitchen (faunal remains). There are also large numbers of late-eighteenth to early nineteenth 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- Early 19th century date of assemblage.


Hybrid Tour Producer

Department/Section

Learning and Community Engagement

Project Supervisor(s)

Allyson Mitchell, Assistant Director of Virtual Programs, and Amanda Grady, Group Sales Manager

Time Commitment

Fall semester

Requirements

Background in education, audio/visual, digital engagement, broadcast communications, or information technology is required. Experience or interest in art history, ancient world history, and community outreach a plus. Strong research, communication, writing, and project management skills necessary. Proficiency in operating digital tools and videoconferencing platforms is required.

Project Description

Penn Museum content is interpreted for a range of audiences through a guided tours, interactive workshops, and virtual programs. While stellar in-person, virtual, and blended Museum experiences have been well received by global audiences; a new focus on designing hybrid tours is needed.

The assistant will gain an understanding of on-site and virtual tours offerings designed for Adult Groups. They will work in coordination with the Penn Museum team to learn more about the content, design process, digital tools, technical support, and engagement approaches for the different program experiences. They will then conduct research to identify the hardware, Museum infrastructure (Gallery locations with the strongest connectivity), and program content necessary to adapt Penn Museum in-person programs to a hybrid tour format.

The assistant will focus on documenting the logistical structure needed to produce a hybrid tour experience. Using a blend of new and pre-existing content they will use an existing tour outline and create the infrastructure needed for Graduate Guides to lead a successful hybrid tour experience. The items that the assistant should create for the guide include script notes for the guides, visuals necessary for the virtual audience, cues for the technical moderator, and a guide for tech set-up at each location. Along with outlining the live broadcast notes, they will also document all pre-tour steps and will organize any necessary materials used in the program for facilitators as well as technical moderators to easily access. At the end of this project the goal is to strengthen the Hybrid Tour Model accepted by the Museum to enhance current and future program offerings.

Expectations: Assist in determining new hardware; establish Gallery locations with the strongest Network connections; Updated hybrid tour framework for Graduate Guides; Produce the live Ancient Alcohol Hybrid Tour experience developed from pre-existing program content.


Malyan Animal Bones Project

Department/Section

Near East Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Katy Blanchard, Keeper of the Near East Collections

Time Commitment

Year-long, up to 5 hours per week (could be concentrated into one semester)

Requirements

Ability to identify type of bone (long bone, tarsal, etc.) required; ability to further identify (type of animal, side of body) desired. Object handling and object number skills (can be trained). Some object photography (can be trained, but some knowledge is helpful).

Project Description

This project is to fully catalogue the animal bones that come from the Museum's excavations at Malyan, in Iran. It was excavated by us in the 1970s, then studied at the Smithsonian in the 1980s, and came back to us in 2016. There are some notes from the work at the Smithsonian that will need to be part of our cataloguing process. The Museum Assistant will need to create the records for each bone (or group of bones), numbering each as appropriate, photographing each piece, and systematically describing the entire collection, which is between 2,000 and 5,000 objects. We won't get through everything so there might be some work prioritizing this work and summarizing the project in such a way that someone can take on the project again after these 65 hours.


Museum Teaching and Learning Certificate Coordinator

Department/Section

Academic Engagement

Project Supervisor(s)

Sarah Linn, Interim Director of Academic Engagement

Time Commitment

Year-long (total of 35 hours)

Requirements

Interest in Object- Based Learning and Teaching Pedagogy; Administrative organization for hybridized learning (can be trained); Excellent communication skills

Project Description

As the Certificate Coordinator, the assistant will manage the Museum Based Teaching and Learning (MTL) certificate program centered on Object Based Learning (OBL) and Teaching strategies for Penn graduate students.

The Penn Museum Certificate in Museum Teaching and Learning is designed for Penn graduate students who want to incorporate object-based, gallery-based, and observational learning into their teaching pedagogy. The certificate program is open to Penn graduate students from any discipline, and trains students on developing inquiry-based discussions, engaging with objects in the classroom, and approaching complicated questions in museum teaching, including colonialism, objectification, and ownership.

Students attend workshops, participate in one observation day, and write a short teaching statement to meet the requirements to receive the certificate. While enrollment changes every year, we expect to have between 15 and 20 students enrolled in the certificate program for 2022-2023. 

The assistant would be responsible for:

  • Identifying both internal and external speakers and setting up at least 6 workshops for the academic year. 
  • Creating promotional materials for events
  • Coordinating 2 (one fall, one spring) Observation Day activity with the collections for students in the program 
  • Updating attendance records and maintaining correspondence with students enrolled in the Certificate Program. 
  • Helping to workshop and evaluate short teaching statements

New Ancient Alcohol Tours

Department/Section

Group Sales and Academic Engagement

Project Supervisor(s)

Amanda Grady, Group Sales Manager, and Sarah Linn, Interim Director of Academic Engagement

Time Commitment

Fall semester

Requirements
  • 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
Project Description

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 series of creative in-person guided tours based on existing Ancient Alcohol tour content. The assistant will repurpose existing tour stops to create new, 30- or 60-minute guided tours that focus on a theme or a region – for example alcoholic beverages from South America, Experimental Archaeology, drinking methods, and more using ancient and contemporary objects in the Penn Museum’s collections.

For this project, the assistant will be asked to research the Penn Museum collections and existing tour content, work with the supervisors to finalize tour concepts, develop tour outlines including interactive audience experiences, develop three to four new tours using adapted content, and compile any visuals that may be used to enhance program. There is also an opportunity to work on creating a hybrid (part in-person, part virtual) version of this tour content.


Qing Dynasty Patents of Posthumous Title

Department/Section

Asian Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Adam Smith, Associate Curator of the Asian Section

Time Commitment

Semester or year-long

Requirements

Ability to read modern and premodern Chinese, research skills in late premodern Chinese history essential. Basic digital humanities skills (text processing with Python, HTML/CSS, database/spreadsheet skills etc.) would be a plus. An interest in provenance studies, textiles conservation, or elementary reading knowledge of Manchu would be great, but by no means essential.

Project Description

The Manchu Qing dynasty which ruled China from the 17th to the early 20th c. sometimes issued posthumous honorary titles to the parents of officials as a reward for loyal government service. The bestowals of favor were marked by documents written in Chinese and Manchu naming the recipient and commemorating their achievements. They were probably the only Manchu-language documents possessed by most of their recipients. Two examples of these Qing patents of posthumous nobility are kept in the Penn Museum, and many more can be identified in other public collections in the US, Europe, People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and elsewhere. They also sometimes come up for sale at auction. Documents of this kind were studied by Franke in 1942 (Franke, W., 1942. Patents for Hereditary Ranks and Honorary Titles During the Ch’ing Dynasty. Monumenta Serica 7, 38–67.) Many have been published since then, but there has not been a systemic attempt to survey them, or to understand their role as symbols of Manchu authority. The project Assistant will compile a list of known examples, with images and transcriptions where these are available, together with dates, recipients, publications and provenance.


Tomb Figures and Ceramics from Jiangxi, and the Mortuary Regulations in the Da Han Yuangling Mizang Jing 大漢原陵秘藏經 

Department/Section

Asian Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Adam Smith, Associate Curator of the Asian Section

Time Commitment

Semester or year-long

Requirements

Ability to read modern and premodern Chinese, and research skills in Chinese history, archaeology or art history. Interest in museum exhibit design a plus.

Project Description

The Penn Museum has a set of tomb contents from an 11th-12th century tomb in Jiangxi, China. These include pottery human and animal figurines, glazed porcelain dishes, and a pair of tall glazed jars. 

https://www.penn.museum/collections/accessionlot.php?irn=1451

https://www.penn.museum/collections/accessionlot.php?irn=1480

Tombs with this inventory of objects were quite standardized and many have been excavated and published. Interestingly, the contents and arrangements of tombs are described in a text, the “Esoteric Scripture of the Yuanling Mausoleum of the Great Han” (Da Han Yuanling mizang jing 大漢原陵秘藏經). The text is of uncertain date and authorship. It was preserved in the 17th c. Yongle dadian 永樂大典 encyclopedia. The goal of this project is to survey existing scholarship on both the tombs and the text to understand better the relationship between them. Was the text a reflection of existing mortuary traditions or did it shape them? How should the tomb objects in the Penn collection be best exhibited in a museum gallery?


Yengema Cave Lithics Project

Department/Section

African Section

Project Supervisor(s)

Dwaune Latimer, Keeper of the African Collection

Time Commitment

Fall or Spring semester, 5 hours per week

Requirements
  • Background in Anthropology or Archaeology
  • Facility with lithic typology
  • Basic cataloging and photography skills
  • Object handling and numbering skills (can be trained)
  • Excel
Project Description

This is an ongoing processing project of a collection from Yengema Cave, Kono District, Southeastern Province, Sierra Leone. The cave was excavated in 1965 by Carlton S. Coon and requires cataloging to make it available to the public. The assistant will rehouse lithics, write (or update) descriptions, assign numbers, photograph, and complete the data entry for each lithic in the collections database. Some additional Archival research may be needed.