The archival collections of the University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Museum (UPM) focus on archaeological and anthropological field work and research, as well as the administrative and collections history of the UPM.
UPM Online Photographic Collection sitio conte “… every time we take up another potsherd, there’s another gold ornament…You get a great kick out of finding gold. Give it a wipe or a little scrape and it’s as beautiful as it ever was…” –J. Alden Mason, 1940

The UPM has sponsored or participated in over 350 projects of archaeological and/or anthropological significance that have resulted in artifact collections primarily from ancient civilizations and traditional cultures. The archival collections are a valuable resource for serious researchers, as the records document the recovery of the artifact collections. Recently, the Museum Archives completed a project to digitize J. Alden Mason’s field notes from his excavations to Sitio Conte, Panama, and worked with the University of Pennsylvania Library (SCETI) and the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center on “Daily Life in Sierra Leone: The Sherbro in 1936-37,” which makes available one of the UPM’s major ethnographic collections.

Archival collections include more than 2,000 feet of textual records, more than 300,000 individual photographic items, and several special collections. Photographic collections include glass plate and film negatives, lantern slides, moving images such as motion picture films and videotapes, stereograph cards, color transparencies, and vintage photographic prints.

bonfils photo, ca.1880 A cameleer of the Sinai. Photo by Bonfils, ca. 1880.
The Notable Photographers Collection includes the work of photographers such as Bonfils, William Henry Jackson, Edward S. Curtis, Jessie Tarbox Beals, and others. These collections contain ethnographic portraiture and architecture, with work by American and European nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographers of the American West, the Near East and Egypt, the Classical Lands of the Mediterranean, and Central America. Online preview: Excavating Voices: Photographs of Native Americans, a volume of arresting photographs of Native Americans from the Notable Photographers Collection.

Special collections include items such as books, journals, and exhibition catalogues published by or about the Museum, its research and collections; maps; archaeological site plans; art on paper; press clippings; posters, post cards and graphics; recorded sound media (phonograph records, reel to reel and cassette tapes); and even oil paintings and sculpture relating to Museum history.

bendiner pen + ink “Surveyors,” pen and Ink by Alfred Bendiner, Tikal, Guatemala, 1960. Researchers may consult A Guide to the University Museum Archives of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1984); the Index to American Photographic Collections (New York, 1995); and Anthropological Resources: A Guide to Archival, Library and Museum Collections (Garland Publishing, 1998). Finding aids for specific collections are available upon request for a nominal photocopying charge. Researchers may consult the collections by appointment only, Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Direct inquiries to the following staff: Alessandro Pezzati, Reference Archivist Charles S. Kline, Photographic Archivist The Museum is also home to the University of Pennsylvania Museum Library, which houses more than 100,000 volumes related to archaeology and anthropology. “This is a dream realized, not only for the Museum and for researchers, but for the entire community. The international collections to be stored in the new Mainwaring Wing are a part of our shared human heritage and the Museum holds them in trust, for research, education and exhibition development for generations to come. The Stoner Courtyard garden, featuring plants from three continents, is an elegant new contemplative public garden space, and one that we want the regional community to visit, use, and enjoy.”–Jeremy A. Sabloff, The Williams Director, University of Pennsylvania Museum

In May 2002, construction was completed on the newest addition to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: a 17-million-dollar Mainwaring Wing for collections storage and study and the adjacent Stoner Courtyard garden. Click on the links below to learn more about this state-of the art collections study and storage facility, built to house the Museum’s most “at risk” artifacts from around the world, the refurbished public garden space, and the many people who helped to make this important Museum addition a reality.

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