The ground has been broken on an exciting renovation project at the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (a.k.a. the Penn Museum), Philly’s 130-year-old treasure chest of fascinating ancient objects that have been excavated from around the globe. Set to be complete in stages up until the of summer 2019, the overall plan is to brighten up the galleries, make the exhibition halls more accessible and incorporate state-of-the-art interactive elements that will bring the museum into the 21st century. Here are five elements of the redo we’re most excited to see.
All renderings courtesy of the Penn Museum
The Middle East Galleries
The museum’s Middle Eastern artifacts will now get a spotlight all their own—in a 6,000-square-foot gallery. Set to open in April 2018, you’ll find more than 1,400 relics from the first-ever excavation of the Middle East, which was led by Penn in the late 1800s. Among the jaw-dropping treasures will be jewelry owned by a Sumerian queen 4,500 years ago and the famed Ram-in-the-Thicket statuette.
Main Entrance Hall
The grand entryway to the Penn Museum is undergoing somewhat of an excavation of its own. Staircases that have been closed off for more than a century will be opened to let in more natural light, and the current Museum Shop will be converted into a new exhibition space where guests can peruse artifacts before even entering the museum.
Gateway to the Egyptian Galleries
Visitors will be able to enter the popular Egyptian Gallery via a revamped “gateway” just off the Main Entrance Hall. The area will be broadened and supplemented with massive windows to let some sunlight in as you stroll into the rooms holding the museum’s prized 15-ton red granite sphinx.
The Harrison Auditorium
This art deco-styled auditorium, with its stunning coffered dome and sunburst ceiling, is getting a dramatic makeover with new lighting and flooring, audio-visual enhancements and all of its 618 seats are getting completely refurbished. Was it a little stuffy last time you visited? Don’t let that deter you from going back. New air conditioning is also being installed.
Those needing help getting to the Egypt (Sphinx) gallery will no longer have to ask museum personnel to escort them up in a freight elevator. There are two new public lifts being installed in the museum: One will swiftly take you to all levels of the Egyptian wing, while the other caters to those going to the Harrison Auditorium and the galleries above it.
Recommended: Check out our full guide to the essential Philadelphia museums