What is the PennCHC?

What is the PennCHC?

The Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) is a research, outreach, and educational center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The PennCHC develops long term and sustainable programs for the preservation and promotion of community-based cultural heritage by:

  • Studying the threats to cultural heritage from the looting and plundering of archaeological and historical sites, the illicit antiquities trade, and commercial development.
  • Connecting Cultural Heritage and human rights by asking, “Is there a basic human right to have your Cultural Heritage protected?”
  • Promoting heritage policies that are concerned with:
    • The ethics of studying the past
    • The rights and interests of indigenous peoples
    • The protection of heritage artifacts, monuments, and sites
    • The development of best practices for museums

Founded in 2008 by Richard M. Leventhal, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center draws upon the expertise of the curators and researchers of the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum. Since its inception, the PennCHC has focused primarily on creating forums that bring together academics with non-academic stakeholders in cultural property policy programs.

The PennCHC contributes to current heritage debates by developing a two-pronged approach: combining intellectual research with an outreach agenda. This dual focus draws upon Penn’s longstanding tradition of applying expert knowledge to pressing contemporary problems. Noting that many of the basic questions surrounding cultural heritage have yet to receive proper theoretical attention, the PennCHC aims to address such questions as what constitutes cultural heritage, cultural properties, communities, and sacred objects; why have cultural heritage and human rights become intertwined; what responsibilities do academics and museums have toward their indigenous, scholarly, and public constituencies; and what is the future of heritage policy and museums more broadly.

The PennCHC links these intellectual themes to an outreach program that intervenes directly in the stream of the antiquities trade, the development of museum best practices, the development of international heritage programs, and cooperative programs with governments and local communities throughout the world.