Monday, February 24, 2020

Refugee Docents Help Bring A Museum's Global Collection To Life



Cameron Pollack for NPR

NPR ran a story that I found incredibly interesting.   The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology — known as The Penn Museum — has hired refugees and immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and Central America as part of their "Global Guides" program. In the picture above, Moumena Saradar, who is originally from Syria, stands next to the wedding jewelry and headdress of Queen Puabi, her favorite part of the Middle East gallery.   

Here is the story of how the Global Guides program came:

"When Ellen Owens, director of learning and public engagement at the Penn Museum, looked at her pool of docents, she saw a wonderful — and aging — group of largely white people. Docents explain exhibits to visitors and show them around the galleries. Owens thought that having docents from a range of ages and backgrounds might be a good way to connect with more diverse communities who might not otherwise be drawn to the Penn Museum. With her colleague Kevin Schott, Owens hit upon an idea. Their institution is world-renowned for its priceless artifacts from the Middle East, Africa and Central America. So, why not hire refugees and immigrants from those parts of the world to work as docents?"

The Global Guides were recruited with the help of Philadelphia non-profit organizations aiding immigrants and refugees. The guides received traditional training in archaeology and ancient history. Plus, the museum hired professional storytellers to help the Global Guides lace in personal tales about their lives.


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