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Photo: Morgan Rees / The Daily Pennsylvanian

The Penn Museum will receive a $500,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage to launch a five-year initiative focused on developing new strategies for exhibition design, public programming and communications.

The Center’s advancement grants support high-performing institutions spearheading innovative initiatives, with the intent of encouraging a vibrant cultural community in Philadelphia. Past recipients include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Opera Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Zoo. The Penn Museum is one of two institutions this year so far to receive the grant.

“Everyone at the Penn Museum is very grateful for the grant,” said Rosemary Perez, Penn Museum’s associate director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. “We are proud to join a select group of institutions with exciting new initiatives.”

The grant will sponsor several upcoming transformations that Perez said will help make the galleries and public programming enjoyable for students.

Penn Museum Director of Exhibitions and Public Programming Kate Quinn added that the grant will help fund the renovation of exhibition space, creating permanent “signature galleries.” This is part of a comprehensive renovation plan for the museum.

The first space to be renovated will be the Ancient Middle East gallery, which will have an expanded area to include artifacts from Nippur, modern day Iraq. More than 1,200 artifacts from Nippur, which have until now been held in storage by the Penn Museum, will be unveiled at an exhibit slated for April next year.

Quinn said the project will also introduce more innovative and interactive features to the exhibit’s design infrastructure.

The museum plans to make similar renovations to the the Egyptian and Asian galleries.

The grant will also help fund the renovation of the museum’s Harrison Auditorium.

Quinn said she hopes the funding will expand digital reach, rethink the museum’s public programming and refresh branding efforts. She said the museum plans to dedicate the funds to improve the way they interact with the public.

To receive an advancement grant from the Center, Perez said, each institution must already have received at least two grants in the past five years from the Center. In 2014, the Penn Museum received a grant for an exhibit called “Science and Race: History, Use, and Abuse.” In 2011, the Penn Museum received a grant from the Center for an exhibit called “Imagine Africa,” which lasted through 2012.

“It is a special and exciting time at the Museum. We’re eager to get you interested in the museum from a different angle,” Quinn said.

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