After more than five years of collaboration with Native American artists, leaders, and scholars, the Penn Museum unveiled its newest exhibition, “Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now,” on Saturday, March 1.
“Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now” is a uniquely interactive exhibit that will rotate more than 250 objects over the course of five years. It aims to transform preconceptions about Native American culture by highlighting distinct stories and identities through outlets and artifacts such as audio, poetry, art, garments, and tools. The exhibit focuses on four themes: “Local Nations,” “Sacred Places,” “Continuing Celebrations,” and “New Initiatives.” Visitors can see objects such as: Lenape materials from the Delaware Valley; war bonnets from the Plains; intricately woven baskets from California; ancient stone tools from Clovis; and intricately carved and decorated material from the Northwest Coast, alongside contemporary Native American art.
“We know the objects in the Penn Museum’s collection are extraordinary as documents of different communities, times, and places in history, but we also wanted our collection to speak to the ongoing concerns and changing traditions of the people whose ancestors made them and first imbued them with meaning,” says Lucy Fowler Williams, curator of the exhibition and senior keeper of the American Section at the Penn Museum.
“Native American Voices” gives patrons a unique and atypical exhibition experience. Through a central introductory video, and four massive towers with touchscreen displays, the exhibit will shine light on Native American perspectives via a number of channels, including video, audio, and essays. At interactive digital work-stations, visitors can investigate and sort every object in the exhibition by tribe, location, material, and the dates from which they originate.