Truth Behind the Trade at the Penn Museum

by Sabirah Mahmud


On February 26, the Penn Museum will be hosting its second Teen Science Cafe for high school students in Philadelphia. It will be on Globalization and the effects of this phenomenon. Additionally, this event will be lead by Dr. Douglas Smitt, Assistance Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania with the help of the Teen Ambassadors.

So why would someone like you be interested in an event like this? Well, let me tell you why.  Are you a fan of KPop or Hip Hop? If so, did you know Hip-hop is actually a byproduct of Globalization? Well, it is! During the event, we will be looking to find examples of Globalization in our very own clothes, in the music around us, and much more. I promise you by the end of this event, you will be aware of the impact Globalization has on our very own daily lives!

Globalization hasn’t just taken the form to impact our lives, but also countries as a whole. In the United States initially, turkey tails were just thrown away because of their fat and meatiness. However, Samoa and other Polynesian Islands soon took interests in them, and this soon became apart of their daily cultural meals as a result. This impacted their culture drastically as obesity rates soon went up and the majority of their people started to gain weight rapidly. However, we never connect the United States to this shift in their people. Nonetheless, with this said, we can actually now say that this shift in culture is actually a byproduct on Globalization not by it always being among their people.

We just don’t see this with recent stories of Samoan culture, but we can connect Globalization with foods in our daily lives such as chocolate, sugar, tea, and coffee. These were all taken from their initial countries due to the fact these products make people feel something that they don’t feel usually. This can be shown as chocolate, because of it’s great sweetness, can make someone happier than they already are, or when we have tea or coffee, it can usually give you a greater feeling of endurance or energy due to the fact it may include caffeine and sugar. But we always tend to think these products to be western but would you be surprised when I say these products are almost all from Latin America and even more specifically, Brazil. Consequently, due to the effects of Globalization, Americans had adopted this and brought into our country to reclaim it as our own.

Globalization can’t just be shown on goods and music, but it can be shown through even dress and hair. Have you ever heard of cultural appropriation? Well, this is globalization to a sense but in a pretty extreme way. When we think of dreads or corn-rows now, we tend to think of possibly rap culture or hip-hop culture, but secretly, this transformation is actually a result of globalization. We tend to group these things that groups have claimed, and associate it with them. However, dreads and corn-rows belong to the African American population. These are the social implications of globalization; when we think of a country or group to have a claim on something, but it’s actually from somewhere else.

Leading to the social implications, we can see this in things that we associate with things that have been around a bit longer. In your head, name the first country or people that you think of when I tell you tomatoes? Do you think of Italy? If so, the social implications from Globalization, actually do apply to you. Tomatoes actually didn’t even exist until trade was brought from Central America was brought back to Europe. This included many other goods as well as tomatoes being one of them. You must think I’m crazy for telling you this, but it is true! We can also see this when we ask ourselves, what do we think about when we think of potatoes? Other than our holy french fries, we probably think of the Irish or the Irish Potato Famine. If so, I would hope to surprise you but like tomatoes, potatoes didn’t even exist in Ireland until trade allowed it to travel there.

These examples are some of the many surprising examples we will talk about at the event on February 26 at the Penn Museum. So come and join and learn about the great effects of Globalization that you have never heard. Bring your friends and families; refreshments are offered!

Sabirah Mahmud is a sophomore at the Academy At Palumbo as well as a Teen Ambassador for Philly STAMP representing the Mutter Museum, and the Penn Museum. She enjoys doing Congressional Debate and Declamation Oratory at her school as well as playing the Oboe and Clarinet in her spare time.

The Rosenbach’s History and Library

The Rosenbach was added this year to the list of STAMP museums. However, The Rosenbach is not a well known museum right on the Parkway, so I am here today to share with you the magical mystery of The Rosenbach.

Located on one of the stateliest streets in Rittenhouse, The Rosenbach blends into its background on Delancey Street because the library and museum was once  a house. The house belonged to two brothers, Dr A.S.W. Rosenbach and Philip Rosenbach, who were antiques and book dealers. The brothers had their own immense collection and bought and sold art and books for various clients in the first half of the 20th century.

When you go to the Rosenbach, you will wait for a volunteer docent to take you through the house and give you a tour. There is plenty of Philadelphia history hidden inside the townhouse. The Rosenbachs had many connections to wealthy Philadelphians and also had a long history in the Jewish Philadelphia community. The house also has a replication of poet Marianne Moore’s New York apartment on one of the upper floors.

The real treasure of The Rosenbach is its library and impressive archive collection. The Rosenbach brothers were antique and rare book dealers who used to help private individuals develop and build their own private collections. Now, though, The Rosenbachs’ private collection is public. Their collection includes Bram Stoker’s notes for Dracula, letters from the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, and James Joyce’s Ulysses manuscript. They even allow anybody to access their collections after filling out an appointment request (about 60% of their collection is searchable if you want to find something to see). If you can’t get to the Rosenbach in person though they have some manuscripts online from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and their physical objects. Hopefully, soon you will be visiting the Rosenbach with your STAMP pass.   

Amelia Dogan is a senior at Penn Charter and a member of the STAMP Teen Council.

Spilling the Tea on Climate Change

written by Sabirah Mahmud

We always hear about the global effects of Climate Change in the media but have you ever wondered about the actual effects that Climate Change can have on our past, present, and future? If so, on Tuesday, January 28th, 2019, the Penn Museum will be hosting an event explaining this all and how you can see these changes in your daily life.

Chantel White who is an Archaeobotanical Specialist at the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (aka CAAM) will be speaking at this event alongside Kate Moore, Practice Professor of Anthropology as well as the Undergraduate Chair at the Penn Museum. As Chantel White specializes in Archaeobotany, a sub-specialization within environmental archaeology which studies human interactions with plants in the past, she will be taking an exciting and different approach regarding this subject.

Chantel White will talk about how higher temperatures affect plants and their growth. Have you ever noticed how the plants in your garden grow differently depending on which season it is? Or have you ever noticed that we can’t grow the same plants that we would like to in our backyard compared to someone else in another country? Essentially, this is what Chantel will be speaking about. Additionally, providing you guys some cool sneak peeks, higher temperatures can affect a plants growth as well as their crop yield. Alongside her super cool talk, we will be exhibiting some of the foods that come from these plants that in the future (if there is no change due to climate change) will become extinct.

Further along into this event at the Penn Museum, White will be showing simulations on mapping out different temperature changes from specific dates. Another interesting medium to find this out is through investigating the trunks on trees. Through the help of a cross-section, if you look into the rings, there are visible rings that are a result of a season-depended change in the growth rate to the tree. You can also find out the climate conditions and the variations where the tree grows JUST by studying the rings of the trees. What is particularly exciting about out cross-section is we will be seeing one from a Bristlecone pine which is a very old and interested huge cross-section. Although I wouldn’t want to spoil much from this amazing event, if you attend, let’s just say you will be super excited just to see this simple cross-section of such an amazing tree.

Following Chantel White, Kate Moore, the Chair of Undergraduates at the Penn Museum, will talk about how the history of Pennsylvania, specifically, from ice age to the current era. Have you ever wondered how the simple block you lived on was a couple of hundreds of years ago? Well, the tea Kate is about to spill must just be for you! As Kate Moore specializes in Anthropology, she will not just be speaking on the environmental changes but the unapparent small adaptions our bodies have towards the changing climate. Fun fact, just through a single strand of your hair you can determine what you ate, where you have been, and so much more. This is another interesting thing that Kate will be talking about during the event. Additionally, through these two very cool topics of environmental as well as personal adaptations to climate change, she will explain just how we measure these changes.

Though you all may probably still lay a little interested, I have a few more amazing activities from the event to make you eager with anticipation for this upcoming event. Though this global climate change has been evolving since we were children, we will go through a quick simulation to see how much climate change has really changed since we were born. Has it always been the level it has been? If not, what did change and how did my body as I grew up actually adapt to this change? These are all things as well as more that we will discover through one of the many activities planned during this Teen Science Cafe at the Penn Museum.

If any of this interested you, this will be occurring January 29, 2019, at the Penn Museum from 5:00-6: 30 p.m. There will be refreshments provided and overall, a really great time. We hope you all see you in attendance and if not, we hope you all were interested in this blog post so you can attend the future Teen Science Cafes held at the Penn Museum.

Sabirah Mahmud is a sophomore at the Academy At Palumbo as well as a Teen Ambassador for Philly STAMP representing the Mutter Museum, and the Penn Museum. She enjoys doing Congressional Debate and Declamation Oratory at her school as well as playing the Oboe and Clarinet in her spare time.

White Blood : Inspired by John Dowell’s Cotton

By Kayla Johnson

Open until January 21, 2019, the African American Museum in Philadelphia features a thought-provoking exhibit titled, Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past.

“The Healing Table,” 2016. Photographed by John Dowell. On view at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
“The Healing Table,” 2016. Photographed by John Dowell. On view at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

On view in the exhibit are 35 digital and multimedia photographs created by Philly-native John Dowell. Dowell reimagines the seemingly simplistic cotton plant and does a fine job of projecting his inspiration for the collection: a story and a dream.

As a child, his grandmother would tell him of a recurring dream she had, a dream in which she got lost in a field of cotton that loomed over her like a maze with no exits. The photographs depict cotton as a component of modern, urban landscapes, one portion dedicated to the landscape of Seneca Village. Seneca Village was a community founded by free black Americans on what is now known as the western edge of Central Park. The community was stolen and destroyed so that we can now recognize it by such a name. Visitors to this exhibit are also given the opportunity to experience firsthand the tedious work of picking seeds from bols of cotton. Two bowls of cotton bols rest before a cotton plant monument where visitors are called to rest, reflect, and leave photographs of their ancestors to be honored as well.

Photo gallery of cotton in Seneca Village, courtesy of AAMP
Photo gallery of cotton in Seneca Village, courtesy of AAMP

A plaque in the exhibit reads, “Cotton As a Symbol. This is a memorial to those who died right out there in the fields and were buried in unmarked graves, and it’s a warning to us not to forget what came before.”

The entire collection spoke to me, with a redundant message screaming that history repeats itself and we are presently living on the battlefields of those that have come before us, battles both victorious and consumed by defeat. However, one particular photograph and its title caught my eye. The Healing Table. The photo depicts a modern black man stretched out on a black bench amidst a field of cotton.

With this inspiration, I fashioned a poem, the documentation of my perspective on the “cotton” that litters the realities of black Americans to this day.

Be sure to visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia to interpret, be inspired, and, best of all, imagine just how many other “ghosts” of years past exist still within our current society.

White Blood

our streets have been scrubbed into forms unrecognized by those that paved them
but their blood cannot be erased
the dank, deep stains cannot be washed away, though attempts are still made
to rename the days
of blood
blood faded to the shades of white
images burnt behind the whites of swollen, anguished eyes
so please don’t walk here
please take another route
please show some respect and take your shoes off at the door of this nation
my mothers are trying to rest
and my sons are making their bed

Kayla Johnson is a junior at Masterman High School, as well as a member of the STAMP Teen Council. She represents the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the National Museum of American Jewish History. She has a strong interest in the many mediums of storytelling, especially those of filmmaking and poetry.