(Written on the road en route to New York City)This post is going to get better and better as you read it. Hold on to your shorts.Our experience at Penn Museum started out with a behind the scenes look (!) with Interim Head of Conservation Lynn Grant and Assistant Archivist Maureen Callahan, both of whom immediately agreed when I asked if I could videotape what they were saying. Below are three amateur, unedited videos, about eight minutes each: This was followed by a fast-paced tour of the museum’s artifacts by Dr. Elin Danien, the curator of the of the museum’s new installation, Painted Metaphors: Pottery and Politics of the Ancient Maya. Sarah and Tom were snapping away for this speedy highlight of all of the most exciting areas of the museum. I don’t know that many have had this opportunity (I certainly hadn’t before this), but if you ever have the chance to take a tour with the curator of an exhibit in a museum, jump at it. It was by far the best tour I have had of anything, ever.
In addition to the deep knowledge of each of the artifacts we were walking past, Elen shared interesting snippets about how the museum acquired some of the items. Many of the museum's artifacts were acquired through the university's past archaeological digs, and the museum takes pride in accepting only legitimate acquisitions into their collection.
Even with the healthy pace at which we were chugging along, it didn’t feel like we were missing anything. In one room, two or three highlights, maybe a quick press off a button to hear a sample of an ancient instrument (or some other interactive display), and on to the next room before the five seconds of the music had played. She did an fantastic job of explaining how these many different cultures played into the way we live our lives today.
Following this we went for a sushi lunch in the cafeteria with the museum’s press officer Pam Kosty and Dr. Pat McGovern (at right). Our talk with Pat was very interesting for several reasons, but the topic that we really discussed during lunch was his nontraditional entry into the world of brewing. After scraping and analyzing residue from a 2,700 year old drinking vessel found in King Midas’s tomb, he worked with (who else?) Dogfish Head to recreate concoction of barley, honey, saffron, and of course, beer and wine mixture to create the best bottle of “malt liquor” I have ever tasted. We followed up sips of this nine percent ABV brew with two 12% Palo Santo Marron drinks. Between the five of us, we split three bottles total. It was enough. What an experience! Our time at the museum ended with another walk around for pictures that we didn’t have time to take on our first rotation, capturing highlights from ancient Egypt, Africa, Greece and all the world over. This was our longest stay at any museum thus far, and I was still in no hurry to leave. We made sure to take plenty more photos, which you can view at our Flickr photostream. Otherwise, if you’re in the town, there’s no excuse to miss this place. It will make your shutter finger sore.-Joey