Click for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Forecast

At Risk: An Irreplaceable Collection
The Case for the New Mainwaring Wing

The realization of the Mainwaring wing (above) and Stoner Courtyard (below) was made possible through generous donations by foundations, corporations and literally hundreds of individuals. The new wing is named in honor of Bruce Mainwaring and his wife, Margaret Redfield Mainwaring. Both are strong Museum advocates and supporters; Mr. Mainwaring is a Penn Trustee Emeritus and former Museum Board of Overseers Chairman, and Mrs. Mainwaring is a Trustee Emeritus and Former Vice Chairman of the Trustees. The Stoner Courtyard is named after supporters Thomas and Kitty Stoner of Maryland.

Sometimes, success can have its downside. After more than 100 years of world-wide research and extraordinary collections development--when the University of Pennsylvania Museum accessioned nearly one million archaeological and anthropological artifacts--UPM had reached the limit of its ability to maintain its collections under present conditions. There was simply not enough space to house the collections properly. Many were stored in overcrowded rooms, making access for faculty, staff, students and visiting researchers difficult. There were no study rooms for researchers; no place for faculty to bring classes to look at objects.

From a long-term collection standpoint, by far the greatest problem was the lack of climate control. Extreme and rapid fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, excess levels of visible and ultraviolet light, and atmospheric pollution all contribute to the deterioration of irreplaceable collections.

From a conservation perspective, the ethnographic collections were those most at risk. It is possible to stabilize archaeological metals by keeping them in low-humidity cabinets, and to deal with the destructive effects of salts in pottery by large-scale desalinization projects--conservation measures that the Museum has been undertaking for many years. However, for organic materials, such as feather headdresses, baskets, ivory carvings and animal skin clothing, there are no equivalent treatments that will mitigate the effects of uncontrolled daily changes in temperature and relative humidity. Objects made of several different materials are at particular risk, as the component parts expand and contract at different rates.

After extensive engineering and planning studies, the Museum embarked on a critically needed, multi-phase program of expansion and renovation. The first phase was the construction of a new storage and research wing. Later phases, soon to begin, will include installation of climate control in the existing buildings, including storage areas, offices and galleries.

For the past several years, the Museum's Conservation Department has been in high gear, as about 100,000 of the Museum's most at-risk artifacts, ethnographic materials from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania, have been undergoing a conservation check and packaging process prior to being moved into the new wing. The move, which began this month, may take up to 18 months, as collections staff make the transition to the new space in a systematic fashion.

The collection keepers and registrars have already moved into bright new offices in the Mainwaring Wing. The new wing will provide state-of-the-art storage facilities for most of the ethnographic collections; much needed research space and a seminar room. Access to these collections will be dramatically improved, as scattered collections will be brought together, and study areas will be located close to storage.

The climate control system will create an environment with stable temperature and humidity, and filtered air. This system, and the new building promise to greatly enhance preservation of the collections for future generations of scholars, students and the general public.

An Invitation to Celebrate at a Party in the New Stoner Courtyard

Workers are putting the finishing touches on what was once only an idea on paper: the $17-million new Mainwaring Wing for collections storage and study, and the adjacent Stoner Courtyard garden, at the Museum. With the completion of the project, the Museum, in partnership with Human Resources' Quality of Worklife Programs, invites Penn faculty and staff to a lunch-time party Friday, May 3, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (The raindate will be Tuesday, May 7).

UPM will hold a similar open house party for the public on Saturday, May 4, and Sunday, May 5, 2 to 4 p.m., when visitors can experience the new spaces and enjoy the entire Museum for free (a regular benefit for all PENNcard holders).

On Friday and Sunday there will be live calypso music from the Steel Kings; Saturday there will be live West African music of the Women's Sekere Ensemble. Enjoy complimentary cookies and lemonade in the garden--as well as an opportunity to chat with the building and landscape architects and the builders involved in the project, experience the new public garden space and tour part of the new collections wing.

Photographic Explorations, a special exhibition honoring the long history of international fieldwork behind the Museum's collections, opens in the newly renovated hallway gallery just off the Stoner Courtyard entrance and adjacent to the Mainwaring Wing.

"This is a dream realized, not only for the Museum, but for the entire University community," said Dr. Jeremy A. Sabloff, the Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. "For Penn's researchers and researchers around the world, the new Mainwaring Wing for collections storage and study promises improved collections access, and the preservation of important collections for generations to come."

Tours of one floor of the new state-of-the-art Mainwaring Wing for collections storage and study will be available on Friday. The wing was designed by the Philadelphia firm of Atkin, Olshin, Lawson-Bell and Associates Architects, and built by Turner Construction Company. The project was overseen by Trammell Crow Company for Penn. Representatives of the design and building teams will be available to talk about the project.

Photo by Candice diCarlo

William Wierzbowski, American section, with a 19th century Native American shoulder pouch.


The Mainwaring Wing for collections storage and study soon will have limited access when about 100,000 of the Museum's million artifacts are moved into the space (a project slated to take up to 18 months). For the May 3 celebration, Penn faculty and staff will be able to visit one floor of the new, state-of-the-art building, greeted by Museum collection staff. Information about future researching opportunities in the Museum's new wing--as well as other collections areas, and Museum archives --will be available at the event.

Photographic Explorations:
A Century of Images in
Archaeology and Anthropology

More photos from the exhibit>>

Photo: George F. Dales, 1969.

George F. Dales surveyed the Seistan region (pictured above) of southwestern Afghanistan in search of evidence of contact between the Indus and Mesopotamian civilizations.

This exhibition, in honor of the new wing and courtyard, runs from May 2 through December 29. It will be in the renovated hallway galleries just off the Courtyard's entrance, which reopens as the Museum's main entrance, in anticipation of construction work in the Warden Garden entrance.

Photographic Explorations provides a visual journey through the archaeological and ethnographic landscape covered by the Museum's 115-plus years of research around the world. More than 60 black-and-white photographs offer a kaleidoscopic view of a sampling of the nearly 400 field projects in the Museum's history. To prepare the exhibition, Alessandro Pezzati, Museum archivist, selected images from the tens of thousands of expedition photographs in the Archives. Included are images from famous expeditions to the Amazon (1913-1916), Memphis, Egypt (1915-1923), Ur in Iraq (1922-34), Tikal, Guatemala (1956-1970) and Gordion, Turkey, where the Museum continues field work it began in 1950.

A new, 52-inch internet-based screen updates the exhibition with changing images of fieldwork being conducted by today's generation of Museum researchers. While the photographs document past research, curators and research scientists are still active in both archaeology and anthropology around the world. Using the latest in computer technology, these projects--over 30 in all--are shown in a dynamic display. Visitors will get a glimpse into current excavations and analyses, from the Old Stone Age of Egypt and France, the ancient civilizations of both the Old and New Worlds, to the study of modern peoples around the world.

Photo by John Henry Haynes, 1899

Workers carry away baskets full of dirt in a stark, surreal landscape
at Nippur in Iraq, 1899.

"The Stoner Courtyard garden, featuring plants from three continents, is an elegant new contemplative public garden space on our beautiful campus, and one that we want the Penn community to visit, use, and enjoy," Dr. Sabloff said. "Come on out, celebrate with us, and get acquainted with this wonderful new space." Penn faculty and staff will have the opportunity to be among the first to stroll the garden--the area's newest urban contemplative space designed by Olin Partnership, Landscape Architects and Urban Planners. Olin Partnership recently completed the Comprehensive Development Plan for the University as well as the Master Plan for Independence National Historic Park.

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 32, April 30, 2002


April 30, 2002
Volume 48 Number 32

School of Social Work selects three recipients for Excellence in Teaching Awards.
Robin Beck will succeed Jim O'Donnell at ISC when he leaves for Georgetown.
Virginia Clark leaves Penn for a newly created post at the Smithsonian.
Penn's Chaplain denounces hate speech.
The Bridge: Cinema De Lux comes to 40th and Walnut.
The Museum is preparing to open its new wing and courtyard to the community with several celebrations, tours and a new exhibition.
Retirement seminars for investors of all ages and at all stages of planning.
Procedures for the establishment, merger, and closing of departments, divisions and entities within schools.