New galleries and amenities unveiled as 'new' Penn Museum opens
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New galleries and amenities unveiled as 'new' Penn Museum opens

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These reimagined spaces and expanded museum amenities transform how we engage with our guests
– Dr Julian Siggers

The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has reopened with 10,000sq ft (3,048sq m) of newly imagined space, including a new main entrance and galleries for African and Mexican and Central American artifacts.

The developments are part of the museum's multi-million dollar Building Transformation project, which is focused on making the museum an internationally-renowned cultural destination, while remaining true to its purpose as a teaching and research institution.

As part of the new Sphinx Gallery, a 25,000 pound Sphinx of Pharaoh Ramses II welcomes guests from its platform as they come through the new entrance area. Here new elevators and accessible restroom facilities have been added.

The 4,000sq ft (1,219sq m) African Galleries showcase nearly 300 artifacts that address modern-day issues around the display of African art and material culture in the west. The hope is that by tracing the paths of objects from their African makers to their place at the museum, critical conversations will be sparked that engage communities "far and wide".

There are around 250 objects in the 2,000sq ft (610sq m) Mexico and Central America Gallery, illustrating the artistic traditions of different cultures from the regions. Prized items include a statue of a Water Goddess that is one of only two known to exist in the world, one of the Maya stone monuments that helped researchers decipher Maya writing, and a giant conch shell that once stood in the capital of the Aztec Empire.

Upgrades to the 1915-opened Harrison Auditorium, which is a 614-seat performance venue at the museum, include new air conditioning, lighting and flooring, and state-of-the-art audio-visual systems.

The reopening of the Penn Museum also sees an expansion of its Global Guides programme, in which refugees and immigrants are hired to conduct tours of the galleries representing their regions of origin. Five new guides from Mexico, Central America and Africa will therefore be joining the programme.

"In addition to showcasing our collections in new ways, these reimagined spaces and expanded museum amenities transform how we engage with our guests, truly making this a museum for all, open to everyone," said Dr Julian Siggers, Williams director of the Penn Museum. "The 'New' Penn Museum invites all visitors to share the wonder of our human story, now more than ever before."

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The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has reopened with 10,000sq ft (3,048sq m) of newly imagined space, including a new main entrance and galleries for African and Mexican and Central American artifacts.
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