Voyages and volcanoes star in Museum series

The Penn Museum’s collection of captivating lecture series aim to examine popular—and occasionally obscure—topics and explore them with academic expertise.

“Our mission is to translate and interpret the human experience over history to a broader audience,” says Jean Byrne, the Merle-Smith Director of Community Engagement at the Museum. “We really want to look at what civilizations have done, what their thinking patterns were, through the lens of anthropology and archaeology.”

Two lecture series seeking to do just that kick off this month: “Great Voyages: Travels, Triumphs, and Tragedies” and “Pompeii.”

“Great Voyages” set sail Oct. 2 with “The Voyages of the Chinese Explorer Zheng He” by Adam Smith, curator of the Museum’s Asian Section. The talks will take place at 6 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month through June 2014.

The next “Great Voyages” lecture is scheduled for Nov. 6 with Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, an associate professor of history at Bryn Mawr College, who will discuss “Ferdinand Magellan, ‘Our One True Guide’: The First Circumnavigation of the Globe, 1519-1522.” Gallup-Diaz will examine the varied and interconnected maritime, cultural, and political factors that came together during Magellan’s circumnavigation—a feat of navigation and exploration.

December’s lecture will feature Paul Cobb, a professor of Islamic history at Penn, discussing “Traveler’s Tips from the 14th Century: The Detours of Ibn Battuta,” in which he connects lessons from 14th century Moroccan scholar Battuta’s journey totaling 73,000 miles to 21st century globe-trotting.

“There’s so much cultural history in these stories about men who went out to sea, whether for wealth or exploration, and the voyages often resulted in incredibly dramatic stories,” Byrne says.

A subscription to the entire “Great Voyages” series is $40 for general admission, and $15 for Museum members. Tickets for single lectures purchased in advance are $5 for general admission and $2 for Museum members. Individual lecture tickets are $10 at the door.

In conjunction with The Franklin Institute’s special exhibition “One Day in Pompeii,” the Penn Museum’s four-part “Pompeii” lecture series will delve into the sordid, scientific, and surviving details of the Early Imperial Roman town destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption.

Lectures will run on Sundays at 2 p.m.—first on Oct. 20, and followed by talks on Nov. 17, Feb. 16, 2014, and March 16, 2014.

The Oct. 20 lecture will focus on the history and science surrounding the eruptions of Vesuvius and other volcanoes in the Calabrian Arc. Robert Giegengack, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences, will discuss “Mount Vesuvius in Human History.”

Individual “Pompeii” lectures are $10 for the general public, and $5 for Museum and Franklin Institute members.

For more information about both lecture series, visit the Penn Museum website.