Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Appeal on behalf of research at The University of Pennsylvania Museum

[Originally posted Tuesday, December 9, 2008, updated December 16, 2008; December 17, 2008 - see below; and see now, January 14, 2009, the new blog Layoffs at the UPENN Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology]

The following message is posted on behalf of Irene Winter (hyperlinks added):

All 'soft-money' research positions are easy targets in times of financial difficulty, as they are not protected by academic tenure. In an announcement made by Richard Hodges, Director of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, research positions in the University Museum have been summarily eliminated, including all of MASCA, the Museum's Applied Science Center for Archaeology.

Letters from colleagues in the archaeological community to the current Director of the Museum and to the President of Penn [addresses provided below] could be very helpful in getting this decision reversed.

The larger issue: the mission of the UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA and THE UNIVERSITY MUSEUM -- indeed all academic institutions -- MUST be to contribute to the accumulation and preservation of knowledge, ESPECIALLY in hard times.

History: The role of MASCA over the years in contributing to archaeological knowledge can be stressed in different ways: the importance of the work of its research scientists to the scholarly community [e.g., Patrick McGovern on ceramics & issues Mediterranean; Naomi Miller on archaeo-botany and the interpretation of archaeological materials in the ANE; Kathleen Ryan on the treatment of animal skins and the making of parchment, cited by all Medievalists working on mss. and codicology; and many more], as well as the importance of the MASCA Newsletter, to the broader scientific community at large. The importance of the CONTINUATION of that work and of the Newsletter as a vehicle for the dissemination of the results of scientific analysis in archaeology can then be underscored as crucial to the field.

The very future of scientific study in archaeology is on the line, and colleagues' voices are needed to support its importance. It should be noted that such programs can be sustained at relatively little cost, at the same time as other Museum programs and outreach are sustained, developed, and subject to cost-effective constraints, without wiping out a whole domain of scholarly endeavour in which the University Museum has played a pioneering role.

**Colleagues are also asked to pass this issue/message on to the various lists to which you subscribe. In the past, a number of threatened programs and positions have been flagged -- for example, in France and in Germany -- and in some cases at least, outcry from the scholarly community has proven effective in securing targeted programs/positions.**

Many thanks to all of you who help with this urgent matter.

Irene Winter
Harvard University

Relevant addresses:
Dr. Richard Hodges, Director
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Dr. Amy Guttman, President
The University of Pennsylvania
100 College Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6380

Articles on this issues in The Daily Pennsylvanian:

Financial crisis forces firing of 18 Penn Museum researchers
Scholars fired as part of ongoing "restructuring" process

By: Kathy Wang, 11/26/08

The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is the latest to be affected by the financial crisis. Museum director Richard Hodges announced in a memo last Friday that the museum would discontinue 18 "research specialist" positions that have been part of the curatorial departments and the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology, in addition to disbanding the MASCA division as a whole.

Museum researchers speak out against firings

By: Kathy Wang, 12/4/08

The forthcoming discontinuation of 18 research specialist positions at the Penn Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, which was announced last Friday, may stem from reasons other than the financial crisis. According to several researchers who declined to use their names due to the situation's sensitivity, the economy's downturn is simply the trigger behind the changes, which they say are due to long-standing University and museum priorities that do not emphasize scientific and historical research.

Update December 16, 2008. See now Jennifer Couzin's article in Science Insider including a response on the issue by Richard Hodges.

Update December 17, 2008. A Philadelphia Enquirer report online Posted on Wed, Dec. 17, 2008: U. of Penn museum plans to go popular

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