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Memory Keepers

Why Objects Matter

Free with General Admission
Closed on February 3, 2020

a painting on a wall

cameo ring


  • A stela from Abydos, Egypt, that tells the story of the life of Sasopedu-iienhab, an Egyptian purification priest. By carving his name and image in stone, this object has kept his memory alive for more than 3,000 years.
  • A carved ring from the late 18th or early 19th century in Rome, which depicts the face of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. Women in 19th-century Europe regarded her as a symbol of female creativity and empowerment.
  • A korwar (ancestor figurine) from Indonesia in the late 19th or early 20th century CE. These figures contained the spirits of recently deceased loved ones. Family members brought these figures to important celebrations and consulted them before warfare and long voyages.
  • A ceramic jar unearthed around 1920 CE in New Mexico. Marked with a carved bear paw, it illustrates the story of how a bear saved the ancestors of the Tewa people of Kha’p’o Owingeh (Santa Clara Pueblo) by leading them to water.


Objects have the power to hold meaning and memory. They can help us remember our pasts, the places from which we come, and the relationships we most value. Memory Keepers: Why Objects Matter is the latest student-curated exhibition at the Penn Museum. The year-long exhibition draws upon the Museum’s vast collections to tell a story about making memory through objects. Objects from North America, Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean have been selected to help illustrate how objects have been used for commemoration.

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