Babylon’s Hanging Gardens come to the Penn

A Gala Night celebrates the reopening of the famous Middle East Galleries.

By Roger Williams | April 11, 2018


The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has a Gala Night, billed as An Evening on the Fertile Crescent, on Saturday, April 14 to celebrate the opening of its refurbished Middle East Galleries.  “For one night only," runs the invitation, “experience the celebrated architecture, gardens, and fountains of the Penn Museum, dressed up as a lush, gold-tipped oasis reminiscent of the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon.”

The Penn is a world leader in Near Eastern archaeology, with a collection of more than 100,000 artefacts. The 6000 sq ft of renovated gallery space will show 1200 objects including the 4500-year-old crowning jewellery of a Sumerian queen and one of the oldest known wine vessels in the world. If the exquisite lapis and gold Ram-in-the-Thicket statuett, and golden bull’s-head lyre from Ur look familiar to those who know the British Museum collection, this is because the museum started joint excavations with the The University of Pennsylvania in 1922, and shared the discoveries. Large-scale video reconstructions of the ancient sites, plus touchable reproductions provide different ways of appreciating the collections and the stories they tell.

Saturday night promises dancing, dining and meeting the museum’s curatorial staff, with tickets from $1000 to $100,000.

For those with shallower pockets there is a two-day Opening Festival the following weekend, free with $15 entry tickets. There promises to be live performances, markets and arts events “celebrating the range and diversity of Middle Eastern tradition and innovation”.

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