What in the World?


Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Right off the elevator on the 3rd floor there’s an interactive video presentation of What in the World?, a 1951 Penn Museum-sponsored and produced show that highlighted their collections in a popular game show format. Hosted by then- Museum Director Dr. Froelich Rainey, each show featured two academics and one special celebrity guest. (Vincent Price appeared on more than one episode!)

Dr. Rainey was an anthropologist and teacher, who later worked as an Archaeologist for the University of Pennsylvania. Rainey saw the post-War roles of Museums as that of teaching tools rather than closed academic repositories. Bringing people to Museums proved difficult, so he instead decided to bring his museum to the people through the new advent of popular television.

The exhibit, created by New York-based artist Pablo Helguera, features an Introduction to the show and Rainey [which YOU can view by clicking on the image above] as well as several museum artifacts. Each artifact corresponds to video footage of the show’s ‘contestants’ trying to decipher its ages and historical significance.

Several episodes of What in the World? have been digitally archived and are available for viewing  at the Internet Archive.

Until visiting, I was unfamiliar with Penn Museum and it’s contributions to the community.  This introduction to Rainey, his achievements as Museum Director, and his television program aimed at open, entertaining education provided an excellent stepping-off point to the rest of the exhibits!




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