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Adult Outreach Speakers

Schedule a Penn Museum speaker to travel on-site to your location for a presentation or beam in for a virtual visit! K-12 teachers, please visit our website for student outreach programs. Please contact Group Sales for pricing and availability.

World Culture Educators

Rebuilding New Life
Photo Memories from Iraq
If you had to choose only 10 items you can fit in your backpack to leave home for a new country, what would you bring? What do you choose to leave? Will you make a choice based on your personal values or based on necessity for survival? In this session, Yaroub Al-Obaidi, a designer, shares his long journey traveling from Iraq, through Syria, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and finally to Philadelphia. He will “visit” each point of his journey with a set of artifacts ---- items that he packed for his departure to a new land. Describing the memories, challenges and hopes he had at each transition, Yaroub explains the contexts of global conflicts and refugee issues, and highlight what life is like for refugees in different parts of the world. Dialogues prompted by Yaroub’s vivid photographs encourage students to think about the complex issues of international affairs in a very personal way.
Message Carriers of East Africa
A kanga is a traditional garment in East African culture. This printed cotton fabric is designed with bright colors and inspirational messages in Swahili. The kanga serves many functions and communicates messages through riddles and proverbs. Ladies traditionally will wrap a kanga in their own fashion, while gentlemen will offer kangas as gifts. A Kenyan instructor teaches you about the history of kangas, their cultural meanings, their functions and basic Swahili greetings. Groups are then invited to create individual kangas using paper collage that feature their own messages and African symbols.
Celebrate the Year 4717
Chinese New Year Rituals
Chinese New Year is a time of exploding firecrackers and leaping dragon dancers. This workshop takes a closer look at rituals and customs associated with Chinese New Year celebrations and explores the historical origins of these activities. Groups will gain an understanding of these rituals, along with their cultural and social significance.
Chinese Characters
A Journey Across Time
What is a Chinese character? Where do Chinese characters come from? How hard is to write a Chinese character? This workshop will examine the developmental history of Chinese characters, a journey of many thousand years. By looking at the transformation of these characters over time and many historical factors behind such changes, you will gain a better understanding not only about Chinese characters but of Chinese history and culture, as well. Individuals can also practice writing Chinese characters during the workshop!
Eastern Woodlands Culture
Daily Life and Stories, Pre- and Post-Contact
What it was like to be a Native American before and after European contact? During this program, an educator with Lenape ancestry will use artifacts and storytelling to explain the history and traditions of different Native American cultures. Storytelling was an important aspect of the Native culture, and remains just as important to many Nations today. These stories appeal to different age levels and are complemented by artifacts that students may touch. These artifacts have been acquired or made by the educator herself, and help demonstrate the different roles each gender and age group play in daily village life.
Let's Play Capoeira!
Merging Afro-Brazilian Cultures in a Fight for Freedom
Capoeira is a martial art disguised as a dance, with its own acrobatics, songs, and music. Afro-Brazilian slaves, who weren’t allowed to defend themselves, created Capoeira in the 16th century. They would pretend to be dancing and celebrating, but in fact were preparing a means to escape and form communities in the Brazilian forests called ‘Quilombos.’ In 2014, UNESCO listed the Capoeira “roda” (or circle, inside which Capoeira is played in pairs) as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. In this workshop, groups will learn about the origins and evolution of Capoeira as part of Brazil’s socio-cultural history, discover the musical instruments, rhythms, and songs specific to Capoeira, and learn some basic Capoeira moves so that they can participate in their first “roda” by the end of the workshop.

Archaeology and Anthropology Experts

Can You Dig It?
Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
Every year, Egyptian archeologists brush away sand and discover unknown pharaoh’s tombs or ancient hidden cities. Ever wonder what an archeologist actually does? How do she decide where to dig? Egyptian archaeologist Shelby Justl shows students a typical day in the field, reveals recent incredible discoveries, and introduces them to experimental archaeology—a method of understanding and recreating the past by attempting these practices from ancient records (such as mummifying animals, firing pottery, building houses, mixing medical poultices and perfumes, and baking bread).
Women and Archaeology
When archaeological research began in the early 20th century, there were only a handful of female practitioners in the field; women now make up roughly half of the archaeologists in the United States. While women are generally accepted in the field, female archaeologists still encounter many professional issues. Meet a female archaeologist and learn what challenges and opportunities women face in the field, from the classroom to the dig site. Hear about the real-life experiences of an archaeologist working in the mountains of Greece or the deserts of Egypt!
Is Archaeology Really Like Indiana Jones?
Petra, "The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time,” is nestled in a mountainous basin in a remote, rugged corner of Jordan. Recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Petra is famous for its rock-cut tombs and monuments, including a Roman theater capable of seating as many as 8,500 people. Petra served for a time as one of the major trading centers of the ancient world. It also served as a backdrop for scenes in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After a series of earthquakes in about 400 AD, Petra lay essentially abandoned; it was not rediscovered until 1812. Archaeological investigations at Petra continue to the present day. This presentation takes you behind the scenes on an actual dig at the site, where they learn archaeology techniques, and whether or not archaeology is really like Indiana Jones.
Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict
There are growing international concerns about the threats modern society poses to Egyptian cultural heritage. Current archaeological digs lie next to modern villages with residents walking through them and wildly spread rumors of treasure leading to illegal digging and black-market artifact sales. This workshop explores the effects of modern people on Penn’s archaeological site in Abydos. Participants will engage in a broader discussion of cultural heritage preservation through examination of political events such as Arab Spring, which affected Egyptian museums and archaeological sites. In the end, people can debate important questions such as, “Should objects remain in their country of origin in times of conflict?,” “Do you think statues, jewelry, and mummies should be transported to museums worldwide to reach a broader audience or should they remain in Egypt as their cultural property?”
Ancient Egypt, Forensic Anthropology 101
In an effort to learn more about the physical aspects of humankind, both past and present, anthropologists developed methods and techniques to evaluate human skeletal remains, techniques that apply in modern forensic (criminal) investigations. Using human remains from Dr. Phillips’ own research, this program introduces the audience to those scientific methods and techniques through digital images of actual human bones from ancient Egypt, some as old as the pyramids themselves. Participants learn, in non-technical terms, the basic steps in determining a female from a male, younger skeletons from older ones, and other information that bones can tell us about a person. A highlight of this talk is a re-examination of a possible 3,300 year-old royal murder case using modern forensics.
Exploring the Classical World through Artifacts
How do we know what we know about the ancient Greek and Roman worlds? What types of evidence do we have to answer our many questions about these civilizations, which are often considered the foundations of Western culture? Archaeology and the study of objects allow us to move beyond the reading of history as a body of facts to actively inquiring about the past. Using examples from two current excavations in Greece, students explore some of the exciting methods of archaeological and historical analysis, ranging from the examination of ancient texts to ultra-scientific studies of objects and even soils. Groups then have the opportunity to interact with objects and formulate their own questions about objects and the ancient world.
Gifts of the Greek Gods
Religion dominated many aspects of life in ancient Greece. The ancient texts and sacred rituals related to ancient Greek religion were often kept secret, so we rely on the objects that remain from these gifts and sacrifices to tell the story. The number and range of ritual artifacts found through excavations of sanctuaries reveals that people of all ages, genders, classes, and geographical locations gave gifts to the gods. These included the bones from thousands of sacrificed animals and votive dedications, ranging from small and inexpensive ceramic objects to elaborate ivory sculptures covered in gold. Why did the ancient Greeks spend so much time, money, and resources on these gifts, and what was the meaning behind such sacrifice? After exploring how, why, and what gifts were given to the gods, students create their own votive dedications that express their personal identity, individual style, and desired outcome.
I Want My Mummy!
Provide your group with an introduction to the history behind ancient Egyptian mortuary practices, both how the mummification process developed through time and how mummies were actually made. Participants also closely examine the history behind why ancient Egypt’s mummies hold such a fascination in popular Western culture. Unpublished images of actual ancient Egyptian mummies, some collected as part of Dr. Stephen Phillip’s own archaeological excavations in Egypt, are used to illustrate this talk.
Sweet Home Egypt
Ancient Egyptians Cities and Daily Life
Travel back in time to 1500 BCE to see ancient Egypt beyond the pyramids and mummies with Egyptologist Shelby Justl. Explore ancient Egyptian settlements and daily life, including the glamorous palaces of pharaohs, the elaborate villas of private officials, and the simple dwellings of workmen. Groups will learn about the ancient Egyptians’ childhood, family life, occupations, leisure activities, clothing, and diet. Sweet Home Egypt also shares how ancient Egyptians handled challenges like illness, grief, theft, lazy co-workers, and bad bosses.

Cultural Performers

Dance in Egypt as a Celebration of Daily Life
The traditional dances of Egypt provide a record in movement of a vanishing way of life. They reflect aspects of village life such as water gathering, ritual combat, and the celebration of weddings. These dances symbolize a continuity of traditions in different Egyptian ethnic groups: the Fellahin, Bedouin, and Nubian peoples. Through discussion, demonstration, and by encouraging audience participation, Habiba explains the dances and movement styles of these three Egyptian groups and reveals something of the character and the essence of these peoples.
History and Mystery of Belly Dance
“Raks sharqi” is the Arabic name for the solo interpretive dance that we call belly dance. It is one of the oldest documented dance forms and can be traced back to ancient Egypt. It has a long history as a dance done by professional entertainers, but also as a social dance that both men and women learn as soon as they are old enough to stand. Here, dance and music are inseparable from daily life, and are a vital part of weddings, feast days, and family gatherings. Habiba presents the history of the dance from ancient times to the present and demonstrates its impact on the western perception of the Middle East. She explains how the modern belly dance performance came into being and how to appreciate a belly dance performance like an Egyptian would. Habiba then performs and invites the audience to practice some moves themselves.
Classic Dance from Hindu Monasteries
In this workshop, Madhusmita Bora, a performer of the Sattriya Dance Company, takes you on a journey through a 600-year-old dance tradition. This dance was only preserved, nourished, and practiced by monks in a little island in Northeast India until recently. You will be exposed to stories from Hindu mythology through the dance, and will also learn about the monks and their lives. There will be masks, costumes and props on display. Along the way, you will be led in movement exercises and will learn related vocabulary of this ancient Indian tradition. Groups of less than 120 people will receive a talk and dance demonstration without the formal performing costume. Groups of 120 people and more will watch a live dance performance with the dancers in formal performing costume.