2012 Commitment to Excellence Award Winners

Preparing a landmark museum exhibit with rare mummies and hundreds of ancient Chinese artifacts is no small task. But what about coordinating a well-publicized exhibit after finding out the original artifacts can’t be used—and with only two weeks to prepare?

These were the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition, which made its only East Coast display at the Penn Museum in 2011. Nevertheless, the museum still managed to put together a blockbuster event that saw record ticket sales in just a matter of weeks.

According to their original plan, the Silk Road exhibit was supposed to be a four-month-long display of rare artifacts before it returned to China. It included a nearly 4,000-year-old mummy as well as an array of well-preserved clothing, textiles, tools, coins and documents, and took the better part of a year to coordinate.

But in an unexpected turn of events, Chinese authorities informed Penn that the original artifacts couldn’t be used. The impact was devastating, especially since people expected the exhibit to open in two weeks. Incredibly, the Penn Museum still opened the exhibit on time through extraordinary leadership and innovative thinking. They used “dummy mummies” and life-sized photographs of the Silk Road artifacts to kick off the display, then implemented an overnight conversion to the real artifacts once Chinese authorities allowed the objects to arrive. They also reworked their marketing and public relations plans to account for the reduced display time.

The result? Penn Museum sold over 42,000 tickets—including many sellout days. Not only did they provide a positive visitor experience that seamlessly maintained the beauty of the exhibit, they also helped increase regional awareness of the museum and define it as a key destination in the Philadelphia area.

In acknowledgement of their extraordinary leadership and creativity during such unusual circumstances, Human Resources is pleased to award the following staff members with Commitment to Excellence recognition.


Penn Museum

School of Arts and Sciences

Aaron Billheimer, Exhibitions
Michael Burin, Building Operations
Michael Condiff, Digital Media Center
Bonnie Crosfield, Visitor's Services
Brian Daniels, Building Operations
Amy Ellsworth, Digital Media Center
Bea Jarocha Ernst, Membership
Edgar Esteves, Building Operations
Allison Francies, Exhibitions
Emily Goldsleger, Membership
Lynn Grant, Conservation
Conor Hepp, Visitor's Services
Shawn Hyla, Information Technology
Pam Kosty, Public Relations
Brian McDevitt, Building Operations
Ben Neiditz, Exhibitions
Courtney O'Brien, Exhibitions
Kate Quinn, Exhibitions
Kevin Schott, Exhibitions
Bill Stebbins, Building Operations
Dari Sutton, Public Relations
Rajeev Thomas, Information Technology
Bob Thurlow, Traveling Exhibits
Cynthia Whybark, Visitor's Services
Katherine Wong, Visitor's Services
David Young, Building Operations
Xiuqin Zhou, Registrar's Office
Victor Mair, Department of East Asian Languages & Civilization