The Penn Museum is undergoing renovations as part of the museum's plan to rebrand itself to the public. Major sections of the museum will open in the coming month and other changes are set to be completed in 2023.
The museum will fully re-open to Penn students on Nov. 13, and to the general public on Nov. 16, with redesigned galleries and a refurbished main entrance and auditorium. The museum is also restructuring its advertising campaign and redesigning its logo and coloring theme to set it apart from Penn and appeal to a wider, non-University based audience.
Penn Museum Director Julian Siggers said the Penn Museum is looking to attract visitors from around the city and the world. Siggers described the museum as “Penn’s gift to the city.”
“We have these world-class series of collections, so we wanted everyone to be able to come and see them and be transformed,” he said. “It's like having a British Museum right in the heart of campus and Philadelphia.”
Penn Museum Director of Academic Engagement Anne Tiballi said the renovation began with the new Middle East gallery, which opened in spring 2018.
“It was the first taste of what the new Penn Museum would be like,” Tiballi said.
Siggers said the new renovation is part of the rebranding process that aims to convey the message that Penn Museum is open to everyone — not just students or faculty.
The Africa Galleries and the Mexico and Central America Gallery are the main focus of the current renovation, as Tiballi said the two galleries were not visited by many classes.
Penn Museum received over 6,000 students last year, most of which visited the museum as part of their classes. Tiballi said the museum hopes that students had great experiences coming with their classes and that they will return on their own.
Siggers said the museum also renovated many of its public spaces to give visitors a better experience at the museum, including updating the bathrooms.
“In total, we renovated over 75% of the public areas in the museum,” Siggers said. “The museum will be fully ADA accessible for the first time," referencing the American with Disabilities Act.
While Penn Museum will remain a teaching and research museum, they will be launching a new series of advertising campaigns to attract more visitors, Siggers said.
“West Philadelphia is becoming more of a destination for visitors. We are launching a new advertising campaign that uses clever techniques.” he said. “For example, [the new advertisements] will [show] you how close you are to … Ancient Mexico or Egypt."
Siggers said the Penn Museum is also planning to renovate its Egypt Gallery for 2023, with the only pharaonic palace outside of Egypt set to be housed at Penn, and its Asian Gallery at a later date.
Even with the shift to broaden the appeal of Penn Museum, administrators maintained that Penn students were an important part of its operation.
Tiballi said she is looking forward to bringing in classes to not only look at the objects but also to think about the interpretation that curators are using to explain these objects.
“We are also really excited for the campus to come to the museum," Siggers said. "Undergraduate and graduate students are vital to the future of the museum."