There is no doubt that the Penn Museum has some amazing collections. Highlights for me include the Egyptian mummies and Greek pottery. Tobey’s favorite is the cafe.
However, I’ve always been frustrated that many of the exhibits lack any sort of cohesive story (or anything more than very basic signage). The museum is in the midst of a multi-year renovation, which will (hopefully) change some of that. I recently (September 2018) had a chance to visit the newly renovated Middle East galleries. While I think the galleries are still lacking a cohesive story, the space is much improved. There is now plenty of signage that puts the objects in context, tracing the rise of human civilization and the birth of cities in the region – with displays that focuses on food, writing, religion, etc. – and a whole room devoted to the excavations of the royal tombs at Ur.
There is also good information tying in many of the finds with the excavations and archaeologists that discovered them, and the technology that allows researchers to continue to learn about and from these objects. My only complaint here is that they took away the information about Agatha Christie, whose archaeologist husband worked with Penn and the British Museum on the excavations at Ur. Christie joined him on these excavations, and they inspired many of her stories, including “Murder on the Orient Express,” “They Came to Baghdad,” and “Murder in Mesopotamia.”
The museum has an outstanding program of family programs, lectures, tours, music, movies, summer camps and other cultural events. They also have a cafe with basic decor but tasty, interesting food.
Field trips: Field trips are available. You can enjoy tours of the galleries (Rome and Egypt are always favorites) and several hands-on programs (mummy making, roman mosaics). Home-school classes are also offered.
Note: Because the museum is renovating, make sure to check the website to see what galleries are currently closed.