Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1887, Penn Museum has conducted more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions and holds a collection of approximately one million pieces from around the world. Imagine Africa @ Penn Museum, a year-long multidisciplinary initiative, will be an experiment with a new visitor-centered method of exhibition planning. Penn will invite current and new audiences to view a rotating selection of hundreds of artifacts from its world-renowned African collection, then ask them to comment on what objects and themes they find most compelling, in order to gauge their interests and develop new exhibition strategies. A primary goal of the project is to increase participation by, and forge lasting relationships with, the significant African and African-American communities in the region, specifically those in the museum’s neighborhood of West Philadelphia. The new installation will ideally create a dialogue around the objects, bringing them to life through clear narrative, interactive elements, and interpretive programs. The museum will also partner with local organizations such as the Clay Studio, Rennie Harris Puremovement, Fleisher Art Memorial, West Philadelphia Arts Connect and others, for free workshops, performances, and community events that showcase traditional sculpture, dance, music, and other traditions. These programs will also be used to gather feedback on audience perspectives that will play a pivotal role in shaping the exhibition’s content and display strategies.