I don’t know when I first got the idea of being an archaeologist. Last year, all I could think about was going into history and happily living my life as a historian, or a high school history teacher.  All I know is that before I left for Israel an idea suddenly popped into my head. I decided that I was going to volunteer at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Thank God for that idea. It’s made everything else up to this point seem much closer in reach.

My time in Israel was amazing. It seemed like every other day was spent on a fantastic archaeological site that I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by. I enthusiastically  listened to my core teacher, Mordy, tell us about the various excavations in Jerusalem, Masada, and just about everywhere else. I learned about the exciting careers of Israeli archaeologists such as Eleazar Sukenik and Yigdal Yadin. I knew that I wanted to have the same adventures as them. I wanted to discover artifacts which had not been seen by human eyes for thousands of years. I wanted to learn about the great cultures of the past and the people who lived their own vivid lives in a world so different from our own. Every day was inspirational and every day made me believe that I wanted to work in archaeology more and more. Israel went by so fast, and before I knew it, I was already back home with the most amazing trip I had ever been on behind me.

When I got back, I was more focused than ever on the idea of working at the Penn Museum. I contacted their volunteer department and was told about a fascinating opportunity known as Cartifacts. In this role I was to talk to museum visitors about various objects of interest using replica artifacts. After finding out that one such cart of artifacts was placed in the Classical World section, I quickly decided that I was going to apply to this cart. I was given a packet to study and told to come back two weeks later. On December 14th(my birthday) I tested and passed as a Cartifacts volunteer. I was in.

I have always loved teaching new things to people. However, up until that point I had never really had people come up to me to learn about the Classical World I was so passionate about. It brought (and still brings) me so much joy to be able to interact with people and to teach them about the distant past. My first week went off without a hitch and from that point on I signed up to volunteer at the Penn Museum every Sunday from 12 until 3.

Although most weeks at the Museum have been slow, I have still enjoyed my Sunday role tremendously.  There is nothing as inspiring as being able to read a history book about Ancient Greece or Rome while sitting amongst the artifacts. It is easy to look at a history book and think the past to be some great work of fiction. However, when I look from my book and see the very same objects which were used in the period I am reading about, I understand. History happened. People long ago used those artifacts and the proof is all around. The artifacts make everything more real. It’s amazing to go to a place where I can be reinvigorated and inspired every week and the Penn Museum has done that for me every Sunday between 12-3 (hint hint…visit me)!!

This is probably a bad place to stop, but next time I’ll write about meeting an archaeologist, deciding to go on a dig, and why I chose the dig that I did.

Julian Hirsch