The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on the Penn campus in Philadelphia dates its official founding to December 6, 1887. On that date, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania resolved to send “an exploring expedition to Babylonia”—with the stipulation that the University would build “suitable accommodations” to house any artifacts that the first expedition team, and others, would bring back.
Since that time, the collections of the Penn Museum, built through a vigorous program of archaeological excavations, anthropological expeditions, planned purchases, and fortuitous donations, have grown to about one million objects. The diverse, internationally acclaimed Collection hails from six continents and spans the millennia, shedding light on the vast scope of human activity and achievement. The permanent building to house the field notes and artifacts came more than a decade later, with the first section of the Museum, at what is now 3260 South Street, opening in 1899.
Now, the Penn Museum begins its 125th anniversary year by placing its Collection front and center, launching the Penn Museum online Collections Database from the Museum’s homepage: www.penn.museum. It’s a place where scholars can go to get preliminary information on a particular artifact or set of artifacts, teachers and school children can explore a region’s cultural materials, and anybody with access to a computer can “curate” their own set of favorite “finds” and share them with friends.