University of Pittsburgh
three small photographs depicting various religious icons

Department of Religious Studies


Field Trips to Remember

Students in Israel—State and Society were among a closed community audience that heard Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Jordanian ambassador to the United States, speak in fall 2007.

Cow-headed goddess, Deir el-Bahri, Egypt

Our 2007 University Honors College (UHC) special topics seminar on the religion of ancient Egypt, specifically designed to coordinate with the King Tut exhibit in Philadelphia, culminated with a trip to the Franklin Institute and the Egyptian archaeology collections at the University of Pennsylvania on March 23. Impressed with the Penn layout and materials and having learned by then that religion was at the center of life in ancient Egypt, as a final project, seminar members were inspired to design a plan to renovate and highlight the Egyptian collection at the Carnegie Museum, already the second most popular exhibit after the dinosaurs. Under the title “Life, Death and Rebirth,” seminar members suggested new designs for two different galleries. Utilizing the existing space in a way that would both draw a crowd and lay out the educational steps for a first-time visitor, the new design plan gradually draws the visitor through the elements of the development of Egypt’s concept of the afterlife—not, seminar members insist, an obsession with death, but rather a recognition that both life and death are integral parts of existence. Much of the educational material of the design plan is drawn from Ani’s Book of the Dead, the only extant literature from ancient Egypt (with illustrations) that discusses the exact details of the survival of the “person” after death. Convinced of the importance of educational videos, the students also produced an excellent video on “Mummification,” and designed marketing and promotional materials. They are contemplating ways to present their ideas to the Museum. Stay tuned!

Our UHC seminar on Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures spent a memorable Sunday in Washington, D.C., listening to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak on “Global Peace Through Compassion” (introduced by California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi) at the MCI Center on November 13, 2005.

History of the Holocaust regularly takes advantage of our nation’s capital with trips to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The diverse religious landscape in the western Pennsylvania region also provides many opportunities to experience and learn about religion in situ and several of our classes make regular visits to local religious sites as part of the learning experience.

Death and Beyond in Buddhist Cultures spent a Sunday afternoon in March 2008 in discussion and meditation with Tempa Dukte Lama of the Bon Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Pittsburgh is home to many Orthodox Christian churches. Orthodox Christianity visits one each term (e.g., Saint Nichola's Greek Orthodox Church and Saint George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, both in Oakland).

The Sri Venkateswara (SV) Hindu Temple in Penn Hills is another popular destination, visited regularly by Religion in India, Religion in Asia, Temple, Icon and Deity in India, and Introduction to Arts and Sciences, part of the Freshman Studies Program’s Religion and Society Learning Community.

Every year as the leaves turn in the fall term, Religion in Early America visits Old Economy Village, a museum of a 19th-century utopian community established by German Lutheran Pietists in Ambridge, PA. This class can also be seen walking in Allegheny Cemetery.

Religion in Modern America explores Homewood Cemetery.

Popular Religion enjoys a walking tour of Oakland, visiting at least four religious sites in our own backyard (e.g., Heinz Chapel, Rodev Shalom, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral).

In February 2008, Catholicism in the New World enjoyed a walking tour of St. Paul's Cathedral in Oakland led by David Wilkins, Professor Emeritus of History of Art and Architecture, whose recently edited a book was commissioned for the centennial history of the Cathedral. On another day in February the class toured the Carnegie Museum of Art's collection of selected Catholic artifacts with two docents from the Museum. Drew Armstrong, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture, addressed two architectural artifacts for a portion of the tour inside the Architecture Hall of the Museum.

Israel in the Biblical Age takes an annual field trip to the Bible Lands Museum at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Chan/Zen Buddhism spends a day of ritual practice and meditation at the Pittsburgh Zen Center, a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple in Sewickley.

Revised 04/22/10 | Copyright 2007 | Site by UMC WebTeam