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Trip Report A Day at the University of Pennsylvania Museum...

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of Archaeology and Anthropology. (The name doesn't even fit in the title and this is the last time I'll put the whole thing in this trip report!) This is just a brief report, but as it's one of my favorite places in Philadelphia, I decided to share a word picture:

It was one of those beautiful crystalline fall days when I took two classes to visit the University Museum. My class of juniors are mentors to the fifth grade, and I was acting as guide for all of them: thirty students all told, nine year olds mixed with sixteen year olds. Here's a photo essay for those who prefer pictures to words--most of the best pictures have the kids in, but of course they're not included: http://travel.webshots.com/album/580960604pyFMNm

The museum opens at 10, and we arrived and parked in the lot in back of the group entrance. That entrance leads you into the education area, but today we didn't use the services of the docent guides, but did instead our own tour. (*ahem* Since somebody has been coming here since she was in fifth grade herself, there was no shortage of information.)

The totem poles at this entrance drew the attention of the students, but we soon marched into the "Lower Egypt" room, where the sphinx dominates the pillars and columns of Pharaoh Merenptah's palace. We found cartouches in the hieroglyphs and symbols galore, and then made a little detour into the small but stunning room of Islamic art on the same floor. The mosaic process certainly caught the attention of the younger students, and we'll be working that into a project sometime in the near future.

Through the doorway and up the stairs to "Upper Egypt", where we first visited the replica Rosetta Stone. Whilst most of the artifacts are authentic, I'm glad they have this copy of the beginning of Egyptology. The sarcophagi, huge heads of Rameses II, representations of Aken-aten (the monotheist pharaoh), and the squished stone enemy whose back served for the door-turning pole all excited interest, but of course the mummy display attracted the most attention.

After lunch under the huge textile map of the world (a hidden treasure if you don't go to the lunchroom!) we retraced our steps and went through Egypt into the Chinese rotunda. The prize piece there is the Dowager Empress Cu-xi's solid crystal ball on its wave base; it was once stolen from the museum, and eventually recovered through a series of rather odd events. The room itself is gorgeous, with its ninety foot dome and teal silk wall insets glowing, but the crystal ball and its story have pride of place.

From there, the next stop was the prized possessions of the Iraq/Mesopotamia exhibit, including Lady Pu-Abi's gold headdress from some 4,000plus years ago; the lapis lazuli and gold bull-headed lyre; the "ram in the thicket"; and the seemingly insignificant but overwhelmingly important cuneiform tablets.

There is a somber and touching 9/11 fragments memorial exhibit just past Iraq; it was poignant to hear the questions of the children who were not even alive when this happened. The older ones, of course, remember it vividly.

Our final stop was the Canaan/Israel gallery, with its unique sarcophagus, trade routes map (Phoniecians and their murex!), and touchable artifacts. We could have stayed even longer, and we did pay a visit to the replica of Hammurabi's laws down on the stairway, but we had to hurry to our souvenir stop at the children's Pyramid Shop and then to some class pictures outside.

There's a lot more to explore in the museum, and I'm hoping that some of the children who came with me will one day be bringing their own children--or students!--to visit the museum for the 15th (or so) time. http://www.penn.museum/about-us.html

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