Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What In The World?








I'll admit that this show may not be for everyone, but I found myself absolutely fascinated by it.   I honestly don't remember it at all, and so it may never have been broadcast where I lived as a kid.


Of course, as a kid I enjoyed shows like the GE College Bowl, Travelogues, and was absolutely captivated by just about any documentary produced by David Wolper.  


I was a bit of a geek before it became trendy.  


And this show certainly was cerebral. 


A panel of experts would be shown 6 to 8 artifacts, plucked from museums, and asked to identify their point of origin, intended use, and age.


Really, it's better than it sounds.  A sort of `What's My Line' for anthropologists and archeologists!


I'll direct you to the University of Pennsylvania's excellent website to learn more about the show, which ran for the 14 years between 1951 and 1965.   


The reviews page  is particularly enlightening.  I heartily recommend you visit, and peruse their website.


There are only 6 surviving shows (a genuine pity), and they are part of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Films, of which more than 600 are available to view on the Internet Archive.


Episode # 4 has guest panelist Vincent Price, who was an amateur collector, and he acquits himself very nicely indeed.


If your tastes run to something seriously educational on occasion, give this show a try. 


Here is how the Internet Archive Describes the show.


What In the World

What in the World?® was the Penn Museum's Peabody Award-winning popular weekly half-hour television program which was first seen in 1951 and which ran for 14 years. By the early 1960s it was one of the oldest programs on television, bringing positive reviews and a steady stream of fanmail to the Museum which continues to this day.

On each What in the World?® program, four or five unidentified objects were presented to a panel of experts who were asked to guess what each piece was, where it came from, how old it was, and how it was used. Objects were selected from storerooms and had never before been seen by the panel. Before the experts guessed, the audience was told what the object was, and, during the course of the program, could watch the thought processes of real --and often fallible!-- anthropologists and archaeologists.

After they had completed their identification, the moderator, Froelich Rainey, Director of the Museum, told them whether they were right and if not, gave the correct identification. Only four episodes of the show survive. The special guest on one of these was the famous actor (and collector) Vincent Price.


What in the World #1 - WCAU TV (CBS, Philadelphia)

All rights are reserved by the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum). Any use of the footage in productions is forbidden unless rights have been secured by contacting the Penn Museum Archives at 215-898-8304, or email

This film and all of the films in the Penn Museum collection are copyrighted by the Penn Museum, and are not in the public domain

"What in the World?" #2 - UPMAA, WCAU-TV

"What in the World?" #3 - WCAU TV (CBS, Philadelphia)

What in the World #4 - UPMAA, WCAU-TV

"What in the World?" #5 - WCAU TV (CBS,

"What in the World" #6 - WCAU TV (CBS,

No comments: