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The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology wants you to come visit — whether to see exhibits or to wine and dine.

Given the current economic situation, the Penn Museum has made it a goal to “develop itself as a destination,” the museum’s director, Richard Hodges, wrote in an e-mail. “It needs to attract a much larger audience with associated revenues to become sustainable.”

To this end, plans include major exhibitions, renewal of current galleries and potentially even changing the cafe to a more upscale restaurant.

These plans come after 18 researchers were laid off last year, although according to Penn’s Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, more than half of those researchers ultimately ended up receiving funding and being rehired.

Additional improvements to the museum include reopening the Warden Garden entrance on 33rd and Spruce streets, introducing new gift shop operations beginning Sept. 25, new audio tours that launched last month and improved maps, according to Melissa Smith, the museum’s chief operating officer.

Since Penn students do not frequent the current cafe, the museum hopes to upgrade to a restaurant “that offers a service similar to Pod or the White Dog,” Hodges said.

Smith wrote in an e-mail that though the restaurant plans “are not concrete,” she believes “having a nice restaurant [in addition to other changes] would be a good draw.”

There is also potential for an outdoor dining component, as Smith noted that “most major museums have multiple levels of dining experiences.”

If the museum does proceed with the plans, “expenses for preliminary [changes to] the space would be donor-funded, and we would not operate the restaurant ourselves, but would outsource it to a third party,” Smith wrote.

According to University President Amy Gutmann, the museum “is focusing on making itself more open to students and the community,” as well as “increasing its online presence.”

Sources inside the museum expressed concern about the museum prioritizing appeal to the local community over maintaining a global reputation.

“Other than financial, how does the restaurant serve the core mission of the museum?” asked one museum employee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of dismissal. “We have an international reputation for research — why would you change what we do well ... and throw that away because it doesn’t bring in money?”

But Gutmann emphasized that “it is very important that the museum be welcoming to both the University and West Philadelphia community.”

“It is not an either-or situation,” she added. The museum can have ‘top-notch research’ and be ‘a world-class museum.’”

Still, the previously quoted museum employee said the museum needs millions in funds to continue research, and many researchers wonder whether a restaurant will bring in those funds.

“If restaurants aren’t even prospering in Center City now,” the source asked, “how is one going to bring in money in West Philly?”

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