University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Photo of ex Voto

Objects have the power to hold meaning and memory. They can help us remember our pasts, the places from which we come, and the relationships we most value. Memory Keepers: Why Objects Matter is the latest student-curated exhibition at the Penn Museum. The year-long exhibition draws upon the Museum’s vast collections to tell a story about making memory through objects. Objects from North America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean have been selected to help illustrate how objects have been used for commemoration.


In Memory Keepers you will discover:

detail of stela

Stela of Sasopedu-iienhab
This stela from Abydos, Egypt tells the story of the life of an Egyptian purification priest. By carving his name and image in stone, this object has kept his memory alive for more than 3,000 years. (1759-1650 BCE)

photo of ring

Sappho Ring
From the late 18th-early 19th century CE in Rome, Italy, this carved ring depicts the face of an ancient Greek poet. Women in 19th century Europe regarded her as a symbol of female creativity and empowerment.

photo of wooden figure

Kowar (Ancestor Figure)
Korwar (ancestor figures), like this one from Indonesia in the late 19th-early 20th century CE, contained the spirits of recently deceased loved ones. Family members brought these figures to important celebrations and consulted them before warfare and long voyages.

photo of jar

Bear Paw Water Jar
This ceramic jar, unearthed ca. 1920 CE in New Mexico, is marked with a carved bear paw and illustrates the story that a bear saved the ancestors of the Tewa people of Kha’p’o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo) by leading them to water.

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