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Ashley Terry, a senior majoring in Anthropology and submatriculating in Biological anthropology, and Maya Kassutto, a sophomore in the College, both intern at the Penn Museum.

Credit: Alex Fisher , Alex Fisher

For most, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is the slightly out-of-the-way building where some classes and NSO’s annual Toga Party are held. For others, it is a much more significant part of their Penn experience.

The Penn Museum is one of the world’s leading anthropology research institutions and a place of pre-professional development for undergraduate students. Students with varied interests can develop both research skills and relationships with faculty by taking part in the internship program, which does not provide the typical internship experience. 

College senior Ashley Terry is majoring in anthropology, submatriculating into biological anthropology and works in the American Section of the museum. Her day sounds a little more dangerous than that of an average Penn student: 

“Basically, I just come into contact with some poisons and pesticides to make sure that other people would be adequately warned about those poisons and pesticides,” Terry said, “It’s not bad. They’re mostly bagged, it’s not a huge deal.”

Working with Janet Monge and the physical collection, Maya Kassutto, a sophomore in the College who started working as a Penn Museum intern in high school, is learning how to find the story behind the different bones and remains that she comes into contact with.

“We have a couple Maoris [skulls] that still have the soft tissue on their faces,” Kassutto said. “They have these very intricate tattoos on their faces, so we can tell [...] that they were the chiefs of their tribes and all of those things.”

Others such as Julia Chatterjee, a College junior  majoring in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, work with ancient texts.

“I work with a database that has photographs of cuneiform tablets and their transcriptions, and I essentially translate them,” Chatterjee said. “These are the earliest pieces of writing we have.”

Chatterjee is also combing through ancient texts to help identify themes and create an upcoming Near Eastern exhibit in the museum, and the work that all interns do contributes to the research and maintenance of exhibits.

“It’s a lovely working environment where everyone is taken seriously,” Kassutto said. “We’re introduced and treated as people with very important opinions and jobs, even though we are interns.“

Interns at Penn Museum work with experts in their fields and state-of-the-art equipment  and will use those skills in their futures as anthropologists and researchers. Spending hours in the Penn Museum as students, researchers and valued voices, interns find a place where they can mix work and their interests and carve a niche for themselves.

“It’s essentially the best place I could be [in] as an undergraduate,” Chatterjee said. “It’s so amazing that for a person like me who has such a specific interest that people don’t exactly understand, it turned out to be the perfect place.”

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