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Donald White

Donald White, a retired Penn professor and former Penn Museum curator, died on Nov. 21 at age 83.

White and his wife were returning from a family visit when their car lost control and hit a pole in Camden, NJ. White did not regain consciousness and died from the car accident, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported

After working as a renowned archeologist, White came to Penn in 1990 to teach as a classical studies professor. He was also the curator of Penn Museum’s Mediterranean section before retiring in January 2004, the Inquirer reported

White played a major role in the 1990 renovation of the Penn Museum’s collections of Roman, Greek, and Etruscan objects, which had not been updated in three generations. His reinterpretation of the collections culminated in the “Worlds Intertwined” exhibit, which displayed the historical evolution of museums’ portrayal of the past.

“We believe that our material should not be displayed simply as pretty pieces for the public to admire in a vacuum, but it’s material that represents the material remains of lives that were lived out centuries ago which we still have a fascination with, and can be used to explain what is basically a lost culture,” White said about the exhibit in a 2003 Penn Today interview.

The Inquirer reported that, after his passing, his family said, “he brought wonderful creativity and educational detail to the galleries.”

White’s interest in archaeology began soon after he graduated from college. He graduated with a degree in classics from Harvard College in 1957, later enrolling in Princeton University’s classical archaeology graduate program after a six-month stint in the Army.

After some time working on excavations at Morgantina, White began teaching at the University of Michigan; the college later invited him to conduct research in eastern Libya, where he started excavations in Apollonia and at the Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone.

After his retirement, White wrote about the history of the North African horse, a manuscript which is expected to be published posthumously.

White is survived by his wife, brother, sons, and granddaughters.

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