Founded in the 19th century, the Penn Museum has long been the home to archeological treasures from around the world. Now, with the reopening of its Mexico/Central America Gallery and its Africa Gallery, the Penn Museum is reinterpreting how it presents the history of these treasures.
The new galleries emphasize how the objects ended up in the museum and the objects’ connections to the present. In the Central America Gallery ancient weavings are juxtaposed with pieces created by contemporary artists. Artists Muhsana Ali and Amadou Kane Sy created a found object mosaic for the African Gallery that addresses the provenance of objects from the Benin Palace. Many of these objects came to the museum after the British invaded and pillaged the Palace in 1897. Curator Tukufu Zuberi said, “These items are here as a consequence of that dislocation in Africa. When I talk to museum curators and directors in Nigeria and Benin City, about putting together this gallery the way we’ve put it together, they say, ‘You must do that. You can’t hide our objects in your collections. You need to bring that truth forward.”
The redesigned galleries are one part of a year-long renovation project. The project also included upgraded bathrooms, lighting, and improved accessibility. The Harrison Auditorium, one of the most-used public spaces in the museum, was also refurbished.
The reopening will be celebrated with an unveiling starting on Saturday November 16. The event kicks off at 9:30 am with musical performances and blessings of the new galleries by Asante and Maya spiritual leaders.