Venturing to Ancient Egypt... From My Living Room!
A Review of the Penn Museum’s “Venture to Egypt” Date Night Program
Hello everyone! My name is Kristin Hutchinson, Vice President of Education for the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia. I am delighted to contribute my first of hopefully many travel blog posts and thank my colleagues in the Travel department for the opportunity to post.
For many of us who are eager to travel internationally again, I am sure we have been self-isolating with our families and significant others for the past few months and dreaming of the next time we can safely travel overseas. Feeling a little tapped out of Netflix travel documentaries, I decided to check the events calendars of some of the area museums when I came across a rather unique opportunity to spend some quality time with my partner, in a fun, educational way.
Thursday, July 23rd, I signed up to participate in the Penn Museum’s “Venture to Egypt” Date Night event. The program was an excellent way to spend some quality time with my partner while learning about history, and being (virtually!) transported to Ancient Egypt, all from the comfort and safety of my living room. I was thoroughly impressed by how much was packed into such a short amount of time. In addition, so many other couples joined for the evening and I could tell that everyone really had a blast learning about this fascinating part of our world’s past!
I reached out to the Penn Museum’s Kevin Schott, Associate Director of Interpretive Programs for some additional comments as he helped to facilitate this unique, and highly informative program:
Q: Please introduce yourself to our travel blog readers. How long have you been with the Penn Museum and what projects or programs are in your wheelhouse?
A: My name is Kevin Schott and I am Associate Director of Interpretive Programs. I’ve been at the Penn Museum for about 10 years. I manage the volunteer docent tour guide programs, the Global Guide program, and oversee new program development.
Q: How did the Penn Museum come up with the “Venture to Egypt” Date Night program? Who is the target audience and what do you hope participants learn/do/experience?
A: We came up with the Date Night program as an offering for all the people currently stuck at home. There is so much work to be done around the house, especially for parents, that it’s hard to find time for your partner. The program is meant to be a lighthearted fun way of spending some quality time together.
Q: International travel is pretty much impossible or highly unlikely to happen for many Americans for the immediate future. In your opinion, how does this program help participants "escape" and learn about another part of the world/time period, from the comfort of their living rooms?
A: There is so much to discover in world history. People may not be able to travel now, but when restrictions are lifted I’d love for people to visit other countries with renewed interest and a deeper appreciation for their history. Hopefully our programs encourage curiosity and a will to see these places in real life.
Q: One thing I really enjoyed was the program's ability to provide couples with some quality bonding time! Can you share with our readers a little about this feature and some of the more interactive elements of the “Venture to Egypt” Date Night program?
A: Quarantine life involves a lot of screen time, but it doesn’t have to be passive! In creating this program we wanted to give people a reason to talk to each other and to engage their brains. There are so many ways you can engage people digitally if you get a little creative. During the program we ask people to look closely at monuments to pick out patterns in the writing. We ask people to decode ancient languages. We even play a traditional game show style finale where one lucky couple can win a prize. These elements make the act of watching with your partner fun.
Q: What are some other ways the Penn Museum is connecting with its supporters and members virtually during this time?
A: The Penn Museum has never stopped working! We have an entire section of our website dedicated to our online experiences called Penn Museum at Home (http://www.penn.museum/athome/). We have activities for kids in our At-Home Anthropology Section. There’s also a series of weekly broadcasts for our annual World Wonders series. We offer a reading group for adults. There are also free, public virtual tours on our Event Calendar. And each and every day we offer a 3-minute Digital Daily Dig that looks closely at one artifact or topic. The best way to keep up to visit our Events Calendar (www.penn.museum/calendar). It’s full of things to do online with us!
Q: I saw that the Penn Museum is opened up to visitors. Will you all continue to offer virtual programming in the future? When can we expect to see the next Date Night program and what topic will it be on?
A: We will continue to offer virtual programming, in fact we’ve been offering it for more than 5 years through our Distance Learning programs! Keep an eye out on our Events Calendar (linked above) for more information.
Q: What advice do you have for world travelers and history buffs who are struggling to stay engaged during the time of COVID?
A: Go for a daily walk through the internet. Type anything that comes into your mind right into the search bar and see where it takes you. It’s amazing how much people share online. You can hear covers of pop songs in Latin on Youtube. Find newly scanned ancient maps on Archives.org. Museums are being incredibly creative right now, so check some of your favorites to see what they’ve added to their websites. Give yourself an hour to follow your curiosity and see what you can find.
… Thanks to Kevin Schott for sharing some fantastic insight for all of us – I can’t recommend the Penn Museum’s virtual programs enough and highly encourage everyone to check one of them out. From events that cater specifically to adult audiences, to events that provide informative fun for the whole family – there is something for everyone at the Penn Museum! As Kevin mentioned, visit http://www.penn.museum/athome/ and www.penn.museum/calendar to see what’s next at the fabulous Penn Museum!
If you are interested in making a reservation to travel to Egypt, look no further! The council is hosting an Egypt: Past, Present and Future tour from March 11th to the 24th in 2021!