Penn Libraries News

Departmental Library Spotlight: Museum Library

Interior of Museum with statue of pharaoh

The Penn Libraries’ Museum Library, treasure trove of exceptional resources in the fields of archaeology and anthropology and an ideal study spot, was established in 1900 with the acquisition of the personal library of Penn’s first professor of anthropology, Daniel Garrison Brinton (1837-1899). The Museum Library now holds over 145,000 publications on archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, and medical anthropology, as well as archaeological sciences and cultural heritage management. The Library’s collection, located over three floors of the Penn Museum’s Academic Wing, serves the research, teaching, collections stewardship, and public engagement missions of the Penn Museum and Penn’s prestigious Department of Anthropology. The Library’s multidisciplinary and internationally rich collections, coupled with its diverse programming, support a number of Penn departments, centers, and graduate groups including Africana Studies, Classical Studies, East Asian Languages & Civilizations, History of Art, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, South Asia Studies, and the Graduate Group in the Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World. In addition, the Museum Library welcomes independent researchers—many of whom travel from around the world to use the Penn Museum’s object collections—and members of the public who wish to engage in college-level research.

As the Penn Museum begins renovations of its galleries, the Museum Library has embarked on a number of its own initiatives to encourage students, researchers, and members of the public to take advantage of its space, collections, and services.

The Museum Library recently undertook much needed improvements to its space and technologies. During 2016-2017, the Library added a new book scanner and repurposed Mediascape tables to its two group study rooms, which are now available for reservations through LibCal. Over summer 2018, outdated furniture was replaced with new chairs, carrels, study tables, and soft seating, increasing the Library’s seating capacity to 185 patrons, as well as ensuring that every workspace has easy access to power and task lighting. In addition, students can now find whiteboards on every floor. Future plans include converting the refurnished VHS/DVD room into a more fully equipped workspace for viewing, listening, transcribing, and editing audio-visual media.

In 2017-2018, a year-long student photography exhibition, “Photographs from the Field, 2012-2017,” provided a breath of fresh air for the aging facility. The exhibition was such a success that it will run again in the fall of 2018. Current Penn students are invited by the Museum Library and the Museum’s Academic Engagement Department to submit digital photographs of their own ethnographic and archaeological fieldwork by late August. The photographs will be printed by the Vitale Digital Media Center, mounted by Museum Library interns, and voted on during the Penn Museum’s Graduate Student Mixer in early September. This opportunity to showcase students’ work—as well as highlight the many possibilities of the Library’s space—is something we are eager to continue into the new year and beyond.

Graduate students who need access to print collections (and who appreciate quiet spaces) are among the Museum Library’s most enthusiastic users. Starting in the spring of 2018, the Museum Library joined forces with the newly re-established Penn Museum Graduate Advisory Board to host weekly “Write-a-Thons” for graduate students in the Egyptian Study Space as well as provided a series of workshops open to students at every level on topics recommended by the graduate students and Anthropology faculty, including “Exploring eHRAF World Cultures and Archaeology,” “Understanding Image Permissions,” and “Simple Tools for Data Visualization.” The Museum Library’s program of workshops and exhibits will be expanded during the academic year 2018-2019.

During summer 2017, the Museum Library hosted a number of special programs for the 100+ staff members in Penn Libraries’ services and collections to share our vast resources. Encouraged by the success of this programming, the Museum Library staff and the Museum departments and curators are discussing ways in which the Museum Library can participate in the Museum’s educational programming, expand the library’s outreach to the museum-going public, and better support the Penn Museum’s research objectives. Some of the most inspiring ideas, which will depend on future funding and staffing resources, include the development of LibGuides for K-12 teachers, student-curated exhibits in and immediately outside the Museum Library, rare book programming, and partnerships to explore emerging technologies in the arts and humanities.

In addition to the “new,” the “old” is getting some attention as well! Although small, the Museum Library’s special collections of early antiquarian and anthropological publications, early catalogs, and manuscript facsimiles offer untapped research and educational potential. During the coming academic year, the Museum Library will host a monthly public program of pop-up exhibits modeled on the Penn Museum Archives’ popular “Unearthed in the Archives” series, involving guest curators from graduate students, faculty, and Penn Museum staff.

Inspired by the lessons, conversations, and discoveries over the past few years, the staff of the Museum Library are eager to begin the academic year and invite you to come and experience the changes. Whether it is the diverse collections, the programming and events, or the brand-new study carrels that brings you to their corner of campus, they look forward to your visit!