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Gaining Great Collections from the Civic Center Collection

move in day

Move-in for the adopted collections was under the watchful eyes of two larger-than-life-size lions proudly looking on as the boxed artifacts were delivered to their new home at UPM.


After a careful selection process that spanned ten months, collections staff from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, have chosen about 5,000 artifacts, once part of the former Civic Center Museum, to be accessioned into UPM's own holdings. The Museum worked with the City Representative's Office of Arts and Culture, the city department responsible for the disbursement of the Civic Center collection, on this project.

Significant numbers of ethnographic materials from Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia, as well as archaeological materials from ancient Egypt, Paleolithic objects from Europe, and a few objects from the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean World, have been selected for inclusion in the collections. In addition, several dozen items--dolls and some Native American tools--will be used by the Museum's Education department for hands-on use in outreach programs. 

Trucks brought approximately 900 boxes with the selected artifacts on Monday and Tuesday, September 29 and 30--and collections staff and volunteers worked to move them in to temporary storage spaces in the Museum. The artifacts will be reviewed and accessioned in the coming months, a process that Museum staff anticipate will take about two years to complete.

UPM is one of a number of Philadelphia cultural institutions which have, over the last decade, helped the City of Philadelphia, and the City Representative's Office of Arts and Culture, with the disbursement of the approximately 25,000 piece Civic Center Museum collection, following that city institution's permanent closing in 1994. In selecting which artifacts to accept, from among the approximately 17,000 artifacts remaining in a city warehouse, Museum staff followed UPM accession policy that takes into account limited storage space, and calls for augmenting and enriching UPM's own collections, which include about one million artifacts.

"We're delighted to be able to serve our city by providing a good home to a fine collection of 'orphaned' Civic Center Museum artifacts," said Dr. Jeremy A. Sabloff, UPM's Williams Director.

"After processing the new acquisitions, we will have some wonderful new pieces, and collections, to integrate into our collections for use in our exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, loan and research programs," he noted. "Individual gems abound, but some of the wonderful collections that will one day make great exhibitions include Amur River ethnographic material from Siberia, ethnographic collections from the Philippines and New Caledonia, costumes from Southeast Asia, and a rich array of materials from Madagascar, Somalia, Nigeria and north Africa."

Mr. Eugene Thompson, Public Art Director for the City of Philadelphia, expressed his appreciation to the Museum for the assistance it has given to the City in relocating the Civic Center Collection.

The William Penn Foundation of Philadelphia provided the City with critically important funding to help complete the transfer of the 5,000 Civic Center Museum objects to the UPM.

Bill Wierzbowski, Assistant Keeper, American section, and Virginia Greene, Senior Conservator, open boxes of late 19th century material from Amur River, Siberia, part of the former Civic Center Museum materials that the University of Pennsylvania Museum is bringing into its collections.

shoes coat

The shoes, (above, from left to right) are made of  cloth, fur and woven cedar. The coat (above to the right) is made of fish skin. Photographs by Jeremy Kucholz, UPM.

Megan D'Arcy, Collections Move Coordinator, with boxes of materials for the former Civic Center Museum. Photos by Juana Dahlan.


African stools


African textile



Vase from Moracco



  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 8, October14, 2003