Friday, 6 January 2012

Penn Museum Launches Online Collections Database

From the Penn Museum Blog by Gabrielle Niu, December 1, 2011

 Just this week, the Penn Museum launched its Online Collections Database. This brand new resource currently encompasses over 314,000 object records and is illustrated with 46,000 images, stats that are expected to increase as the project moves forward. A keyword as well as an advanced search allow users to casually browse or specifically search for objects. A search for “cheese” unexpectedly turns up this terra cotta figurine carved in moulded relief from Iraq. Apparently, depicted on the tripod table in front of the male figure is a collection of stacked, rectangular objects that could be cheese. The “Highlights of the Collections” section includes a number of particularly important pieces from the Museum. A “Featured Themes/ Collections” section highlights the collections in fun ways – like exhibiting objects that depict faces. Additionally, an interactive feature allows the user to create his or her own collection of objects and share it with others. I can even make this exciting collection of early Chinese funerary objects and share it with you here! All in all, this database is an incredible and useful resource that makes the Museum’s collections open and accesible to many more people.

Asian Section Collection Highlights

With more than 25,000 pieces, the Asian collection ranges in material from musical instruments and tools, to paintings, jewelry, and clothing. The objects on display in the Chinese Rotunda showcase our impressive collection of Chinese sculpture collected during the early part of the 20th century. The large-scale artifacts on view are a testament to the artistic achievements of the Chinese people, particularly in early Buddhist sculpture, and the continuity of artistic evolution during the early, pre-Song periods (before 1000 CE). In storage, the focus is largely on ethnographic collections with representative collections of the Ainu people of Japan and the Naga Hills people of India. Other highlights include a large thangka collection from Tibet, a series of textiles from the minority people of China, and numerous examples of blankets and wall hangings from India and Japan. There is also a significant collection of Buddhist material collected as part of a temple that was erected when the Museum opened in 1899. The nucleus of the South Asian sculptural collection was put together by Alexander Scott, who led a Museum expedition to India from 1915 to 1918. These objects represent one of the earliest collections of Indian art to come to America. They also became the focus of study for several pioneering scholars in the fields of South Asian art and culture, including Ananda Coomaraswamy and W. Norman Brown.

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