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Tragic Foolishness at the Penn Museum

On her new blog, Dr. Louise Krasniewicz provides a massively discouraging account of the foolishness that has been going on at one of the country’s great university anthropology museums, the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania.  Its ETHNOGRAPHIC collections are priceless and it has a very long and very distinguished history of scholarship in ETHNOGRAPHY and ETHNOLOGY (even in LINGUISTICS–see Sapir’s work there), not just old world archaeology.  Dr. Krasniewicz describes the liquidation of cultural anthropology by the museum’s director, a move that is not only out of sync with good sense but out of sync with cutting edge archaeology, even cutting edge classical archaeology (as evidenced by the renewal of multi-method, multi-disciplinary material culture studies). The only hope that I can find is in the history of the museum’s names.  Deleting “anthropology” from the name need not last for ever. Of all the museums that I know, the Penn Museum has carried the most different names at different points in time. It could easily be renamed again two years from now.

I hope that the ethnographic collections will be stewarded responsibly. Ugh.

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