New galleries opening this weekend at Penn Museum

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The largest sphinx in the western hemisphere greets visitors in the light-filled entrance hall of the Penn Museum.

The 25,000 pound monument is the centerpiece of the main entrance, but just the beginning of what guests can explore.

The Mexico and Central America Gallery and a suite of Africa Galleries are also opening this weekend.

Many artifacts are on display to the public for the first time.

"This museum is one of the most remarkable museums in America. It's got a collection that rivals anywhere in the world, and it's right here in Philadelphia," explained Dr. Julian Siggers, Williams Director of the Penn Museum.

Ten-thousand square feet of gallery space has been redesigned for the specific purpose of engaging all visitors of all ages.

"Wherever you are from in the world, this museum has objects that will speak directly to you," said Dr. Siggers.

The museum collection is vast with around one million artifacts. The ones on display were chosen to tell a story.

"These galleries are a series of narratives, and we picked the best objects to display that," Dr. Siggers added.

Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, the lead curator for the Africa galleries, Professor of Sociology and African Studies at Penn told Action News he incorporated visitor feedback into this new space, including the origins of the artifacts and how they got to the museum.

"I studied what the people said. They said, 'We want to learn more about colonialism.' We gave it to them. They said, 'We want to know more about enslavement.' We gave it to them," Dr. Zuberi told 6abc.

Dr Zuberi continued, "They said 'We want to learn more about how this relates to the cultural practices of African Americans here or in the other parts of the African diaspora.' We gave it to them."

Dr. Zuberi said, "With the Africa Galleries, we're going beyond the traditional colonial messaging associated with exhibiting these objects outside of Africa."

"The idea is to create a conversation, to bring history alive, to bring these objects alive by connecting them to the people who created them and the diaspora that they accompany," Dr. Zuberi expounded.

There are special events all weekend long to celebrate the grand opening.

For a complete schedule visit: Penn Museum Calendar
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