Penn Museum Exhibit Explores Magic in the Ancient World

Tutu - Penn Museum

A limestone plaque of Tutu, a sphinx-like protective god with a human head, lion body, and a snake for a tail. It has been dated between 30 BCE to 624 CE, and was found in Egypt. (Photo: Penn Museum)

The Penn Museum is going to be a little more magical for the next year.

On Friday, the Museum opened a new exhibit, Magic in the Ancient World, that displays magical objects from ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece, the Near East, Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The co-curators are Bob Ousterhout (an Art History professor) and Grant Frame (an associate professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations). They told Philadelphia magazine they wanted to get some of the museum’s items out of storage and on display; many of the items in storage are related to magic. An idea for an exhibition was born. “Magic is sort of an omnipresent idea in the ancient world,” Ousterhout says.

It was developed out of a curatorial seminar, Magic in the Museum, in the 2015 spring semester taught by professors Ousterhout and Frame. Ten students, both grad students and undergraduates, contributed to the selection of objects and the composition of explanatory texts in the booklet. Read more »

Taste Ancient Ales with Dogfish Head at the Penn Museum


In my book, one of the best collaborations possible is Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Dr. Patrick McGovern of the Penn Museum. Together, they’ve created a series of ancient ales that blow my mind every time I drink them—as they should, considering the history behind each of them.

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Penn Museum’s Legends of the Hidden Temple Event Sold Out in 2 Days

Penn Museum - Olmec

The Penn Museum is going back to the 90s later this month.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of days for the staff at the Penn Museum. The phone has been ringing off the hook. The museum has been the top trend on Facebook. It’s the talk of the country.

The museum has not made a new discovery or acquired an ancient artifact. Instead, it’s holding a Legends of the Hidden Temple event at the museum on April 20th. The Penn Museum originally planned for 100 guests. But a crush of interest led them to up the capacity to 250. It still sold out in 48 hours.

“Institutions like ours are trying to become more relevant to various audiences,” Kate Quinn, the Penn Museum’s director of exhibitions and public programs, tells Philadelphia magazine. “We’re reaching out to a more diverse audience to help them to come into this institution and find their way whenever possible. It’s getting them in the door and exposing them into what we have. If they’re not coming just based on what we offer, then what can we offer to get them in the door?”

Quinn says no event has sold out as quickly as this one. Read more »

11 Things You Might Not Know About the Art Museum


It’s been an exciting week for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On Wednesday, the big “International Pop” exhibit opened, celebrating the bold, colorful works that, as our writer Sarah Jordan phrased it, put the line between high art and low art out of business. Then, on Thursday, the Museum announced a major bequest of 50 paintings from the estate of Luden’s cough drops heir Daniel W. Dietrich II that includes works by Edward Hopper, West Chester’s Horace Pippin and Eva Hesse, among many others. So it seems an auspicious time to examine the history of the Museum, which was founded just in time for the nation’s Centennial and endures as a site where everyone from school kids to scholars and hippies to hipsters comes to soak in the healing power of art. Read more »

Philly Museums Offering Sleepover Nights in 2016 — For Kids and Adults

Sleeping bags in Dino Hall | Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

Sleeping bags in Dino Hall | Photo courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences

When’s the last time you had a sleepover with friends? How about in a museum underneath a formidable dino or Egyptian sphinx? That’s the kind of idea that the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University’s museums have in mind. Starting in January, the Penn Museum‘s kid-friendly sleepover series returns through the summer, as well as a few dates for a youth-oriented scavenger hunt and sleepover event at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences. But don’t worry, adults: there’s also an opportunity for a no-kids allowed, grown-up-style sleepover for you to enjoy solo at the Academy. More details below so you can get a head’s up on your 2016 planning.

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New Book Tells the Story of Sphinx Sculpture at Penn Museum

The Sphinx when it was moved to the Lower Egyptian Gallery in 1926.| Photo courtesy of Penn Museum

The Sphinx when it was moved to Penn Museum’s Lower Egyptian Gallery in 1926.| Photo courtesy of Penn Museum

If you’ve taken a trip to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, you’ll probably recall being greeted by an enormous granite sphinx in the Egyptian gallery. Bearing the name of Ramesses II, it was excavated in Memphis, Egypt from the temple of the god of creation, Ptah. But the sphinx is as lively as it is elegant — two years ago, it celebrated its 100th anniversary in Philly with a large party hosted by the Museum.

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Penn Museum Offering $10 Admission Through the End of August

Penn Museum

The Penn Museum is offering an affordable escape from the summer heat. From now until August 31st, guests can enjoy museum highlights for only $10.

This summer’s special fee offers access to the museum of archaeology and anthropology’s international collections, like the Egyptian mummy gallery, Africa gallery and Greece gallery. And unlike a lot of special-deal packages at museums around town, this one actually includes its special exhibitions. Discover the extraordinary burial rituals of an ancient civilization at “Beneath the Surface: Life, Death and in Ancient Panama” or witness the unveiling of contemporary Native American identities at “Native American Voices: The People-Here and Now.”

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Outdoor Summer Concert Series Returns to Penn Museum This Month

Photo courtesy of Penn Museum.

Photo courtesy of Penn Museum.

Wednesday nights are eclectic in University City. For the sixth year in a row, Penn Museum welcomes the Summer Nights Series Concerts to Philly. Come and enjoy outdoor concerts every Wednesday night from 5 to 8 pm in the Stoner Courtyard. The event is free to Museum members and for children under 6. General admission is $10, which includes admission to the Museum. The Penn Museum’s International galleries will remain open during concerts, and there is and option to attend a docent-led mini tour in between sets starting at 6:30 p.m.

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M. Night Shyamalan to Host Free Discussion Next Week at the Penn Museum

M. Night Shyamalan and his wife, Dr. Bhavna Shyamalan. |

M. Night Shyamalan and his wife, Dr. Bhavna Shyamalan. |

Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and his wife, Dr. Bhavna Shyamalan, will speak at the Penn Museum next week in what will be the first public program hosted by the M. Night Shyamalan Foundation (MNSF). The organization supports the grassroots efforts of leaders who are “working to remove the barriers and eliminate inequities created by poverty.”

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