Adopt an Artifact and care for the non-living

Crystal Ball

Penn Museum

This crystal ball from the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) is thought to be the second largest in the world.

Looking to adopt a cat? How about a cat mummy from Ancient Egypt?

In the market for some fine china? Take a gander at a crystal ball from China’s Qing Dynasty?

The Penn Museum is inviting its visitors and friends to adopt nearly a dozen ancient items in its vast archaeological collection. The adoption fees help with the maintenance and storage of the artifacts, and adopters will receive an array of benefits, depending on their participation level.

While the Museum is home to nearly 1 million artifacts, only a few are on public display at any given time. The rest are in need of proper care and housing.

Amanda Mitchell-Boyask, director of development at the Museum, says the Adopt an Artifact program, launched in 2009, is a way to raise awareness about the remarkable number of historic items at the Museum, and how much effort and money it takes to maintain the collection.

Beatrice Jarocha-Ernst of the Museum’s Membership Department likens the program to the adopt-an-animal plans many zoos offer. “Housing and caring does have a cost to it,” she says, “even for the non-living.”

Penn Museum

Penn Museum

This dance cap from the Cross River area in Nigeria and Cameroon was worn as a symbol of power or celebration of victory in battle.

Mitchell-Boyask says 10 or 11 items are put up for adoption each year. This year’s artifacts include the aforementioned cat mummy, as well as the Museum’s famous Sphinx, and a golden goat from Ur.

The Adopt an Artifact program has received more than 65 gifts thus far, with some of the more popular items garnering more than one “adoption.”

Levels of adoption begin at $35. Donors who give at any level will receive a certificate of adoption, a photograph of the artifact, and a description of its significance. More generous adopters receive passes to the Museum and invitations to special events. 

Jarocha-Ernst says the most popular adopted item is the Sphinx. “School groups in particular seem to like the Sphinx,” she explains. “Teachers seem to think it’s a really cool idea.” When school groups adopt an artifact, they receive activity worksheets about the item for the whole class.

To adopt an artifact, call 215-898-5093 or visit the Penn Museum website.

Originally published on February 2, 2012