Demolition Next Door threatens fragile artifacts at the Penn Museum

An archaeology museum in Philadelphia has moved thousands of ancient treasures offsite and is using vibration sensors to monitor delicate items still on display while an earth-shaking demolition project continues next door. The Penn Museum – which houses mummies, a Sphinx, pottery and other historical pieces excavated worldwide – has also modified exhibits to prevent damage to fragile objects and ensure they can remain on view. Vibrations from heavy machinery can really mess with the integrity of the artifacts and cause some to move within their exhibits, said museum special projects coordinator Robert Thurlow. “You have so many objects and they’re represented and displayed in so many ways, and they all have their own unique fragilities.” Vigilance has required museum staff to babysit galleries during night demolition work. The museum cares for about 1 million items, but only a small percentage is displayed to its more than 160,000 annual guests. Officials with the museum and health system, which is paying the yet-to-be calculated moving and storage costs, have been coordinating closely for more than a year.

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About the Penn Museum
Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum has always been one of the world’s great archaeology and anthropology research museums, and the largest university museum in the United States. With roughly one million objects in our care, the Penn Museum encapsulates and illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from. Learn more at: