Application Deadline: April 24, 2020
The Museum Assistantship Program offers paid semester-and year-long assistantship opportunities for Penn graduate students to work on projects within the Penn Museum. The program pairs Museum projects in need of research assistance with interested graduate students from related fields.
How to Apply
Applicants may apply to one of the projects listed below.
Prior to completing the application form, you should prepare the following
- A brief (no more than 500 words) statement that addresses:
- Your interest in this project
- Your relevant experience and expertise
- A current academic CV
All accepted participants will be notified by mid-May.
This program is open to University of Pennsylvania graduate students.
Students who are members of groups underrepresented in Museum-related fields are particularly encouraged to apply.
To participate, you must be a full-time, active student, enrolled for the upcoming fall semester.
Compensation and Time Commitment
Assistants are paid $15 an hour and should expect to commit 2 to 5 hours per week, depending on the needs of the project.
Exact start and end dates will be determined by the project directors.
- Bisitun Lithics Project
- Buddhism In Asia: Gallery Themes and Interpretation
- Charleston Foodways Project
- Digging Digital Data: Revisiting the Penn Museum Expedition to Sybaris
- The Belize National Collection and Archaeological Sites: The Development of a Digital Archive and Resource
- Greek and Etruscan Vase Publication Project
- Phased Evaluation of New Exhibition: Human Evolution 2021
- The Life and Work of Tlingit Scholar Louis Shotridge
- The Eli Barr Landis Collection of Sino-Japanese War Prints
Bisitun Lithics Project
Near Eastern Section
Katy Blanchard, Fowler/Van Santvoord Keeper of the Near Eastern Collections
Fall Semester, 5 hours/week
Familiarity with lithic typology as relevant to the Middle Paleolithic; Object handling skills (can be trained); Object photography and Bridge software (can be trained but some knowledge helpful)
The Museum houses one of the most important subset of Mousterian stone tools from the site of Bisitun. Excavated by Carleton Coon and then vaguely processed by the Museum in the early 1950s, this collection is frequently used and requires accurate cataloging and identification (bi-face, burin, etc.). The Museum Assistant will check the existing inventory, catalog objects as necessary, photograph pieces in the correct orientation, and assist the Keeper in matching objects with missing numbers to their correct record. Although the material has not been systematically published, the collection has been referenced since its discovery and the Assistant would help to create a bibliography, linking relevant parts of the collection.
Buddhism In Asia:
Gallery Themes and Interpretation
Nancy Steinhardt, Stephen Lang, and Adam Smith
Semester- or Year-Long
Background in history, art-history or religious studies relevant to one of the cultural regions represented in the collection (China, Japan, Southeast Asia, South Asia). Reading knowledge of a relevant Asian language. Strong writing skills. Ability to write for a general audience.
The Asian Section has impressive holdings of Buddhist art and material culture covering multiple cultural regions and time periods. The medieval Chinese sculpture currently on display is most readily interpreted for a public audience as reflections of Buddhism and related cultural contacts with the Indo-Iranian world. Beyond medieval China, the collection includes Buddhist art from Gandhara, Japan, Tibet, Southeast Asia and Mongolia. There is a pressing need for interpretive text that synthesizes the scholarly understanding of these objects into public-facing, object-based, and thematic narratives. This will support improvements to the public online catalog, public programming, gallery labelling and other interpretive text, and planning for gallery reinstallation.
Charleston Foodways Project
Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)
Chantel White, Archaeobotanical Teaching Specialist for CAAM, and Katherine Moore, Mainwaring Teaching Specialist for Zooarchaeology and Practice Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
Either ANTH 440 Plants and Society or ANTH 533 Archaeobotany Seminar; ANTH 567 Living World in Archaeological Science or equivalent; Proficiency in Excel (intermediate to advanced)
Through a partnership with the Historic Charleston Foundation in South Carolina, CAAM teaching specialists have begun a new research project analyzing plant and animal remains to reconstruct the daily activities of enslaved people who lived in the city of Charleston. The focus of our study is a two-story kitchen house associated with the Nathaniel Russell House built in 1808. Commensal rats during the nineteenth century created large caches of botanical and faunal materials that were preserved behind the walls and floorboards of the kitchen house. The contents of these caches are providing insight into the foods that were routinely being prepared by enslaved people, as well as details about their local environment including a fruit orchard, vegetable garden, and an area for butchering animals on the property.
The Museum Assistant’s role will include working with Chantel White during the fall semester to assist in the analysis of the archaeobotanical remains and working with Kate Moore during the spring semester to help classify the zooarchaeological remains. The Assistant should ideally have some experience (coursework or lab work) with these types of analysis, although they will be able to greatly expand their skills during the time of their assistantship. We anticipate that the Assistant (1) will help us identify and quantify plant and animal taxa, and will generate a preliminary list of taxa present in the assemblages; (2) will assist in generating a standardized sub-sampling protocol; and (3) will help develop a method(s) for recognizing post-1865 intrusive deposits within the caches.
Digging Digital Data:
Revisiting the Penn Museum Expedition to Sybaris
Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)
Jason Herrmann, Kowalski Family Teaching Specialist for Digital Archaeology
Required Archival research and ability to manage correspondence with external libraries and institutions; Basic computer skills and ability to manage digital files. Training will be provided as part of the assistantship.
Recommended Familiarity and/or interest in GIS and remote sensing in archaeology. Interest in archaeology of the Mediterranean, landscape archaeology.
In 1961 the Penn Museum embarked on an expedition to locate Sybaris, a port city of Magna Graecia (modern Calabria, Italy) famed in historical texts for its prosperity. Because the 7th century BCE deposits were thought to lie buried under meters of alluvium, Project Director Rainey leveraged a suite of scientific field methods to map the archaeological remains including magnetometry, electrical resistivity and aerial imaging, making this project one of the earliest and most intense applications of remote sensing in archaeology. While the Search for Sybaris failed to reveal extensive urban remains, coordination between field director EK Ralph and the manufacturers of scientific instruments resulted in technical and methodological advances that laid the groundwork for the strategies and sensors we use today.
These data are ripe for reanalysis using current approaches in landscape archaeology. The Museum Assistant for Digging Digital Data will catalog and digitize records from the extensive remote sensing surveys at Sybaris. Data will be visualized in a GIS and the original interpretations reevaluated against the results of more recent investigations and external data sources. Files will be made available for use by students and faculty for teaching and research. Images and observations will be used in retrospective articles and exhibits at the Museum and any novel developments in our process of digitization, organization or dissemination of data, or any new archaeological observations will be considered for joint publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Expectations and Work Plan
- Catalog and digitize project data collected by the Penn Museum and the Lerici Foundation held in the Museum Archives and elsewhere
- Transcribe geophysical data from field notebooks to create raster layers for display and analysis in a GIS
- Locate prints and negatives for panchromatic and multispectral aerial images for the project area
- Digitize Sybaris Expedition interpretations in a GIS
- Georeference images
- Create a spatial catalog of data coverage in a GIS
- Carry out photogrammetric analysis of image sets to reconstruct the 1963 landscape surrounding Sybaris
- Create maps that integrate Sybaris Expedition data for interpretation
- Archive data for public use
The Belize National Collection and Archaeological Sites:
The Development of a Digital Archive and Resource
Penn Cultural Heritage Center
Dr. Richard Leventhal, Director of PCHC and Curator in the American Section
Computer skills – willing and able to learn 3D software and detailed photo software
The Central American country of Belize is a small nation situated along the Caribbean coast between southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is located within the heartland of the ancient Maya world. Thousands of people, local and international, visit the ancient sites of Belize. These include Caracol, Lamanai, Altun Ha, Xunantunich, Nimli Punit, and many others.
Belize has a large collection of ancient Maya artifacts – some of which are displayed at a small museum in Belize City as well as at some small site visitor’s centers. However, there is no large-scale national museum and storage facility.
In the 1990s and 2000s, a team headed up by Richard M. Leventhal and Louise Krasniewicz (Penn Cultural Heritage Center and Department of Anthropology) was given permission to photograph and scan the several hundred objects that make up the primary corpus of the Belize National Collection. In addition, during this same time, 360 degree panorama photographs were taken at multiple locations within many of the archaeological sites throughout the country of Belize.
- Examine, assess, and learn digital software related to both 3D scanned data and panoramic photographic tours
- Begin the process of creating a database of the images and data from Belize
- Update all data to current software requirements
- Begin process of cleaning up data and creating final images and data sets
- Work with team to present a preliminary Virtual Belize Museum and Virtual Belize Archaeology Tour – to be presented to Government of Belize
- Continue work and create process for future and final developments
Initial development of this project
Progress and monthly reports
Greek and Etruscan Vase Publication Project
Ann Blair Brownlee
Editorial experience; Knowledge of Greek and Etruscan art useful but not essential
The Penn Museum has one of the most important Greek and Etruscan vase collections in America and supports a long-term project to publish this material in the international series Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. The Assistant would participate in the final preparation for publication of one volume and the early research for another.
The project is primarily editorial text editing, preparing indexes and concordances, checking bibliography and photographs and drawings. Some object handling, archival research, provenance research, and data entry.
Phased Evaluation of New Exhibition:
Human Evolution 2021
Physical Anthropology Section and Exhibitions Department
Janet Monge, Physical Anthropology Section, Curator exhibit, Human Evolution; Kate Quinn, Director of Exhibitions; Jessica Bicknell, Head of Exhibitions
Background in anthropology, specifically biological anthropology; Extensive experience in museum exhibit theory and practice; Familiarity with the museum evaluative process
Development and interpretation of a new exhibition, Human Evolution, is underway at the Penn Museum. The exhibit will focus on the ways that an understanding of evolutionary processes, and human evolution in particular, effects each of our lives. The original Penn Museum traveling exhibit, Surviving The Body of Evidence, opened 12 years ago (4000 sq. ft.) and a smaller version in 2011 (1200 sq. ft.) (Human Evolution The First 200 Million Years). This new version of the topic will cover many aspects of evolutionary history and process including an integration of units dealing with modern human population biology. Given that the topic is outside the normal range of exhibits at the Penn Museum, we want to engage in a vigorous evaluative process beginning in September 2020 and extending to September 2021.
Front-end studies of Museum visitors and members of proposed new audiences to determine adult and children’s baseline knowledge and preconceptions about human evolution and its effect on our lives.
Formative and Remedial
This phase is designed for an evaluation of prototypes of exhibit components and to determine if areas and messaging needs to be corrected.
Techniques include Focus groups, surveys, interviews, and unobtrusive observation.
Results of each step of the evaluation process will be integrated into final interpretation and design. The Museum Assistant will be responsible for the generation of reports following each evaluation phase and will attend weekly meetings as development of the exhibit content unfolds.
The Life and Work of Tlingit Scholar Louis Shotridge
Dr. Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator & Jeremy Sabloff Senior Keeper, American Collections
Attention to detail; Experience with Excel; Experience and demonstrated interest in the study of North American peoples and material culture preferred
This Assistantship will support collections curatorial research on the life and work of the early 20th Century Tlingit North American ethnologist and Penn Museum Assistant Curator Louis Shotridge. Working closely with Associate Curator Lucy Williams, tasks will involve detailed object and photographic collections research, and careful editing toward a publication.
The Eli Barr Landis Collection of Sino-Japanese War Prints
Stephen Lang, Nancy Steinhardt, and Adam Smith
Good reading knowledge of Japanese; Background in art history, Asian studies, history, or anthropology; Experience with cataloging museum collections, translation, photography, and databases
The Asian Section contains a sizeable collection of material related to the first Sino-Japanese war. The collection was donated to the Museum in 1897 by Eli Barr Landis, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania medical school, who was also a medical missionary working in Korea at the end of the 19th century. Consisting of prints, lithographs, and books, the collection is an important window into the visual media created during the war and a valuable resource for understanding propaganda and public relations during times of conflict. The Museum Assistant will conduct research on the Sino-Japanese war, Eli Barr Landis, the artists who created the prints, and other areas of importance in order to fully catalog the collection. Attention will be paid to identifying key battles and places as portrayed in the collection as well as translating any text on the prints and lithographs. Brief summaries of the books, including publishing information such as the publication date and author, will also be created for inclusion in the Emu database. A firm grasp of the Japanese language is therefore preferred in order to read the large amount of text present in the material.