Imagine Africa @ Penn Museum

Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania



Photo of Imagine Africa @ Penn Museum by Maanvi Singh, courtesy of the Penn Gazette blog.

The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology launched Imagine Africa @ Penn Museum, an experiment with a new visitor-centered method of exhibition planning. A primary goal of the project was to increase participation by, and forge lasting relationships with, the region's significant African and African-American communities. The museum produced a series of public performances and outreach meetings to attract new audiences to the museum (especially their West Philadelphia neighbors) and to gauge their interest in various aspects of the African collection. Hundreds of artifacts from their world-renowned African collections were on display throughout the course of the project and visitors were asked to choose and comment on the most compelling. The project also included a series of workshops, performances, and community events that showcased traditional African sculpture, dance, music, and other traditions, free of charge. These events took place at neighborhood venues and were used to gather feedback on audience interests and perspectives. Information collected throughout the planning period is now being used to develop exhibition content and interpretive techniques that will enable a wide range of audiences to connect to the cultural heritage of Africa.