Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

NAIS Research & Resources at Penn

Above: Layout design for the new "Native American Voices: The People - Here and Now" at the Penn Museum

Undergraduate and graduate students interested in NAIS can take advantage of multiple opportunities to conduct research through laboratory studies, fieldwork, or museum exhibition projects in collaboration with academic institutes and faculty at the University. NAIS faculty are working on multiple fronts to: link classroom studies and field research; host visiting Indigenous guest speakers and fellows at Penn; facilitate educational exchanges with tribal museums; and develop collaborative research proposals with Indigenous communities.


The Penn Cultural Heritage Center

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center is dedicated to expanding awareness and promoting discussion and debate about the complex issues surrounding the world’s endangered cultural heritage. PCHC initiatives include education and outreach programming for diverse audiences (e.g., law enforcement, customs officers, lawyers, policymakers; academics; community stakeholders; and the general public. The Center works to stop the illicit movement of antiquities, and offers opportunities for fieldwork with Indigenous communities in North American, Central America, and Latin America. Contact Director Dr. Richard Leventhal or Dr. Brian Daniels, Director of Research and Programs, for more information. 

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum)

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum) offers a wide variety of collections, exhibits, archives, and other resources for study.  Features include the Center for Archaeological Analysis of Materials, publications, special programs and events, lectures, and tours. The curators, researchers, and staff of the Penn Museum are all willing to assist as important intellectual resources for students and faculty. To access collections, contact the relevant Section of interest, or search the collections through the on-line database.

Native American Voices Exhibition at the Penn Museum

The Penn Museum's newest exhibition---"Native American Voices: The People-Here and Now"---features more than 250 objects from the collections, and offers insights into the distinct histories and identities of multiple Native American nations. The exhibition challenges common stereotypes and explores the many ways in which today's Native leaders are creating and maintaining religious, political, linguistic, and artistic independence, through old and new objects, video and audio recordings, and digital interactive opportunities. Topics include: language loss and revitalization, identity, representation, and on-going political activism in support of sovereignty and self-determination. The Museum also provides an on-line database of objects on display, an Educators Guide with pre-visit and post-visit activities, and links to related Expedition magazine articles.

American Section, Penn Museum

The American Section of the Penn Museum is an excellent resource for students interested in museum anthropology, ethnography, art, archaeology, material culture, technology, and Indigenous representation in multiple worldwide communities. The American Section, the largest part of the Penn Museum, includes approximately 300,000 archaeological and ethnographic specimens. The collections span the continents of North and South America from Alaska to Argentina, and they document human habitation and history from the ancient past to the present day. Contact the Curators of the American Section for more information or appointments.

The Penn Museum Library

The Penn Museum Library, a part of the Penn Library system, is located on the third floor of the Penn Museum. This library collection focuses on anthropology and archaeology, although other libraries on campus also hold relevant anthropological materials. The collection consists of approximately 125,000 items, including nearly 650 currently received periodical titles and hundreds of anthropological videos and DVDs. Short term and long term reading carrels and reserved books can be arranged through the Librarian.

The Penn Museum Archives

The Penn Museum Archives house records of the museum’s institutional history: director’s correspondence, curatorial records, field notes, manuscripts, photographs, etc. Materials focus on the history of archaeology and anthropology, the history of photography, a record of museological practice for the last century, and the papers of museum scholars. Researchers must make appointments with the Archivist in advance. Some of the material in the Penn Museum collections can also be located using the Museum's online search databases.

Educational Partnerships with Indigenous Communities

In 2017, the Penn Language Center introduced a new initiative, titled Educational Partnerships with Indigenous Communities (EPIC). The EPIC initiative was designed to assist in the cultural preservation of endangered Indigenous languages and expand the diversity of language education at the University of Pennsylvania. EPIC was also committed to digital repatriation and other forms of knowledge sharing, in collaboration with a select group of Native nations (Cherokee, Tuscarora, and others) in the United States and Canada. NOTE: EPIC Director Dr. Timothy Powell passed away on November 1, 2018. Please see this link for a remembrance of his life and contributions: In Memory.

Indigenous Language Recovery and Ethnology at the Graduate School of Education

The Graduate School of Education at Penn hosts courses, special events, and conferences that often feature topics on Native American language recovery. Students can contact Dr. Nancy Hornberger, who researches bilingualism and biliteracy, ethnography and language policy, and indigenous language revitalization in the United States and in the Andes (Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador), along with other parts of the world. Dr. Hornberger also convenes the annual Ethnography in Education Research Forum, which provides new and seasoned researchers with opportunities to network, share resources, present research, and dialogue about methods for improving ethnographic classroom research.

On the Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in North American Museums

This project, directed by Dr. Margaret Bruchac, examines records of historic wampum (woven shell bead) belts and collars, and tracks patterns of handling among traditional leaders, collectors, and museums. The research team has been surveying collections, conducting visual analysis, researching archives, and interviewing Indigenous knowledge-keepers in Haudenosaunee and Algonkian communities and in museums across North America. This project also examines archaeological sites of wampum manufacture in Connecticut, New Jersey, and elsewhere. This project is designed to restore more holistic object histories and revitalize connections between Indigenous objects in museums and contemporary Indigenous communities linked to those objects. Current research locales are highlighted on the Wampum Trail Blog and Facebook page.



Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at the American Philosophical Society

NAIS faculty at Penn have collaborated on research with the American Philosophical Society, which hosts the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR), directed by Brian Carpenter. CNAIR staff coordinate research on Native American digital collections at APS and outreach to Native American communities, in order to digitize and share collections for use in language preservation and cultural revitalization. CNAIR projects have included collaborations with a number of tribal nations, including the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Ojibwe, Tuscarora, and Penobscot. 

Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations

NAIS faculty at Penn have collaborated with several Native American and First Nations educational initiatives. One such is Deyohahá:ge, the Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic Institute in Ohsweken, Ontario. Deyohahá:ge (in Mohawk, Teyohahá:ke) translates to "Two Roads," and the name embraces the concept of bringing together two streams of knowledge – Indigenous and Euro-American – in order to advance human understanding of the world around us. Deyohahá:ge supports work in language recovery, traditional knowledge, archival research, seed preservation, historical interpretation, and other projects that engage Haudenosaunee elders, youths, and communities, often in collaboration with scholars elsewhere. Richard W. Hill, Sr. former Coordinator at Deyohahá:ge, has partnered with NAIS faculty at Penn on several projects, including "On the Wampum Trail" directed by Dr. Margaret Bruchac, and the Digital Repatriation Project initiated by Dr. Timothy Powell through the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at the American Philosophical Society.