The Penn Museum at Home offers virtual and interactive programs during closure

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Since its temporary closure due to COVID-19, the Penn Museum has launched a new virtual platform that allows visitors to explore the museum and participate in interactive programs from home.

Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum is an archeology and anthropology museum located on the Penn campus at the intersection of 33rd Street and South Street. Since announcing its temporary closure to the public on April 10 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Museum faculty and staff have focused on expanding their online presence by offering free and accessible remote programs at the public.

The Penn Museum at Home is an initiative that advances the museum’s mission to understand the human experience, wrote Penn Museum public relations director Jill DiSanto in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“It’s something we’ve never done before so it was an exciting opportunity for us to pivot quickly. By adding technology to the mix, we were able to virtually share our work, research, expertise and public programs with people around the world, ”DiSanto wrote.

Penn Museum Director of Learning and Public Engagement Ellen Owens said the museum has put more emphasis on its virtual platform over the past decade by posting lectures on YouTube, in addition to organizing teleconferences for local schools and community centers.

Due to past experience of increasing virtual offerings, the museum already had staff members skilled in digital education when COVID-19 hit the city, Owens said. However, they still had to make many changes, including training all staff on new platforms and developing museum programs accessible to a wider audience.

“Museums tend to move very slowly – they like to get it right the first time. But obviously that circumstance didn’t really make it possible to do the most perfect thing from the start, ”said Owens.

Some of the new virtual programs offered include a daily three-minute exploration of an artifact titled Digital Daily Digs, a family-focused project called At-Home Anthropology for Kids, a history video lecture series titled Great Catastrophes, and a monthly book club conference that will run until December.

Ana Gomez, a sophomore from Rising College and marketing and communications intern from the Penn Museum, helped promote the events and programs as they went virtual. Gomez has worked remotely on projects for the museum, including creating Zoom backgrounds, uploading material for digital events, and tweeting from the museum’s Twitter account.

Owens said a new feature of the Penn Museum’s remote hardware is the weekly Living Room lecture series, where a museum expert hosts an informal chat on Facebook Live during happy hour every Thursday evening. The live broadcasts are then uploaded to the Penn Museum’s website so that those without a Facebook account can access them.

“It started out as a crazy idea, and we really didn’t know if people would like it. But people are so interested and we have people all over the world listening, ”Owens said.

Owens said the show’s lectures contrast with the formal, sometimes intimidating, feeling of going to a museum, reflecting the museum’s priority of increasing access to its materials. Owens said almost all of the programs on offer are either free or paid, and are available to Museum members and non-members through multiple platforms.

“We feel very lucky and grateful for all the support. Everyone at the museum and educators got to immerse themselves in it very quickly, ”said Owens. “It’s exciting because the things that we have created have a lifespan that will last much longer than this period. ”

Owens said staff don’t know when the Penn Museum will be able to reopen, but a 40-person task force has been formed to describe how the museum will operate when it is safe enough to do so.

“We have a phased plan, with staff first, then general visitors, before eventually adding groups,” Owens said. “But we are in no rush and we will listen to the experts and play by their rules.”

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School of Social Work and Adams School of Dentistry Launch Virtual Services for Patients with Complex Needs

North Carolinians suffering from oral complications and potentially struggling to meet their basic needs now have access to the virtual services of medical specialists and social workers at UNC-Chapel Hill. Telehealth services, provided by the UNC Adams School of Dentistry and the UNC School of Social Work, were launched following the closure of dental clinics on campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The services ensure that all patients, especially those at higher risk of disease, continue to have access to an oral doctor without having to leave the comfort of their homes, said Jamie Burgess-Flowers, Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work and Faculty of Dentistry. Currently, clinic appointments are made through Zoom meetings twice a week.

The new initiative is part of a growing movement towards integrated healthcare, in which doctors and mental health professionals work together as a team to diagnose and treat patients. This model is the backbone of the School of Social Work’s UNC-PrimeCare program, which rigorously prepares students to work in primary care settings as behavioral and mental health care specialists.

The project is also the second recent collaboration between the two schools. This fall, they will jointly launch i-STEP, or Interprofessional Substance Use Disorder Education and Training, an initiative to help social work and dental students learn more about substance use disorders.

As the Senior Social Worker for the Oral Telehealth Services Project, Burgess-Flowers works closely with her team to help patients navigate service needs, such as accessing housing options and transportation, as well as mental health and addiction counseling. These patients are often referred to a social worker after a team member has assessed their general health history.

“As part of this medical history, they are asked nine questions, such as, ‘In the past year, have you or anyone in your family had trouble paying for a phone, housing or the food ? “”, explained Burgess-Flowers. “If a patient says yes to any of these things or if they are positive for depression or anxiety, they should meet with me.”

Referred patients are assessed more closely to ensure that all of their needs are understood. In some cases, Burgess-Flowers offers brief counseling services or, if necessary, connects patients with mental health support in the community. She also manages the coordination of care, helping patients overcome other challenges, including financial issues.

“For example, this week we had a patient who is uninsured and needed a special mouthwash to manage her symptoms and who could not afford it,” he said. she declared. “So we talked to her about affordability options and asking for a drug assistance program, using coupons and creating a longer term plan to get into a more affordable pharmacy. . “

In the long term, it will be essential to continue to build bridges between the fields of social work and oral medicine to ensure that a patient’s needs are considered in a holistic way, she added.

“By the time many of these medically complex patients are attending their first visit with an oral specialist, they have seen many health care providers with no results,” she said. “They are often overwhelmed by their symptoms, have gaps in care and their psychosocial needs have been overlooked. Having a social worker there to assess and respond to those needs is a real change for this patient population and their dental team.

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