Exhibit Archives

This section of the website is dedicated to showcasing previous exhibitions here at the museum. The importance of the objects here at the museum cannot be understated; even when these incredible objects aren’t on display! This section will give insight on what was being displayed, the cultural and historical significance of the collection, and why the select objects were chosen.

Philadelphia Voices: The German Society of Pennsylvania: Celebrating 250 Years

Using photographs and artifacts, the exhibition highlights the Society’s evolving roles and activities over the course of its 250-year history, from its charitable work to aid German immigration and educational efforts, to its many social and cultural activities. Featured objects of the exhibit include The 23rd Sangerfest (National Spring Festival) pins dating from 1912, the book Der Weg zum Gluck, oder, Das Leben Von Dr. Benj. Franklin, beschrieben von ihm selbst (The Way to Happiness, or, the Life of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, told by himself) from 1796, and a stein owned by Robert Blum, a famous martyr of the 1848 German revolution which, according to its description, was presented to Blum by fellow members of German Parliament. Also on view are two late-18th-century pistols belonging to Peter Muhlenberg. Muhlenberg carried the pistols during his service in the Continental Army during the RevolutionaryWar and served as one of the first presidents of the German Society. These historic pistols were loaned from the National Museum of the American Revolution. A walking guide was available for visitors to discover the impact of German culture and explore where the city’s German-American community lived, worshipped, and worked for the past 250 years. Using coordinates on the Museum’s walkable map of Philadelphia, visitors used the map to locate places such as the Wistar Institute, the first US biomedical research facility, named after Dr. Caspar Wistar, who wrote America’s first anatomy textbook; and Keebler’s Bakery, founded in 1853 by German Society member Godfrey Keebler and the official baker of Girl Scout Cookies since 1936.

Reinventing the Row Home for Engery Efficient Living

Reinventing the Row Home for Energy Efficient Living premiered in the Community History Gallery from February through May 2013. The exhibit was installed by the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA), which provides services that contribute to Philadelphia's energy effciency and sustainability. The centerpiece on display was the House of Pressure, a learning tool that demonstrates Home Preformance Testing using pressure diagnostics. In addition, a blower door, a rain barrel, a video, and panels demonstrating ECA's impact on the Philadelphia area were also on view. During the exhibit, Museum visitors were able to receive information and resources on energy conservation and stormwater management. ECA Executive Director Liz Robonson commented, "The exhibit creates visual language which communicates ECA's work in transforming such a historic city as Philadelphia into a more resilient and greener city for the future.

About the Energy Coordinating Agency
ECA's mission is to help people conserve energy and promote a more sustainable and socially equitable energy future for all in the Philadelphia region. ECA is a leader in the development of energy effcient, affordable, and market-rate housing, sustainable building practice and solar energy in Pennsylvannia.

To learn more about ECA, click here.

Family Interrupted/Community Connected

Family Interrupted/Community Connected, by the Mural Arts Program, was the first exhibition installed in the Museum's Community History Gallery. The exhibit was on view from July through December 2012. Designed by muralist Eric Okdeh, who completed 65 mural commissions in Philadelphia and nearly half of those through Mural Arts' Restorative Justice Program, the exhibit focused on the effect incarceration has on a family. The exhibit featured a reproduction of Mr. Okdeh's mural and two small mail boxes, which were part of a greater series of six that originally sat in prison waiting rooms and other public spaces. People were encouraged to leave comments and thoughts on how families, inmates, and communities are affected by incarceration The exhibit also showcased a six-foot mirrored-mosaic figure, quotes from inmates and their famalies, and tools used by muralists to create their visions. A video was incorporated to detail the process of creating Family Interrupted.

About the Mural Arts Program
This was an exciting exhibit to showcase at the Museum as the Mural Arts Program is the nation's largest mural initiative and has created more than 3,000 murals and public art. Mural Arts also engages youth in free art education programs and works with over 100 communities.

To learn more about the Mural Arts program, click here.

The Real Thing and Why It Matters

The Real Thing and Why It Matters, was an exhibition from May 5, 2005 to January 2, 2006 that examined the contemporary relevance of historic artifacts. From the wampum belt given to William Penn by the Lenape people to a wooden water pipe excavated from underground chambers, The Real Thing presented 25 objects from the collection of the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, including the Art and Artifact Collection of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  A wide spectrum of commentary from Philadelphia citizens provided insight into the importance and meaning of each object today and for future generations.

The Real Thing and Why It Matters, was divided into five sections:  The real thing holds symbolic meaning, links past and present, piques curiosity and opens new insights, defines a sense of place, and shapes the future.  Twenty-eight Philadelphians, representing diverse interests and backgrounds, provide their commentary on the meaning and significance of each object. The exhibition was supported by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, the William Penn Foundation, the City of Philadelphia and trustees of The Philadelphia History Museum at The Atwater Kent. 

The Real Thing was organized and curated by Dr. Cynthia Little, Philadelphia History Museum Historian and Exhibition Manager, along with Jeffrey Ray, Senior Curator and Susan Drinan, Registrar.  Research assistance was provided by Dolores Pfeuffer-Scherer, Allen F. Davis Intern in Public History at Temple University.  Keith Ragone of Assemblage, Inc. in Philadelphia provided the exhibition design.

The Real Thing ... Has Symbolic Meaning

See objects that shape historical memory not only about the city of Philadelphia but also rituals that shape our everyday lives. View items that relate to everything from weddings to funerals.

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The Real Thing … Provides a Link to the Past

See objects that resonate with the realities of contemporary life while offering a snapshot into a specific period of time. See items that touch on everything from manufacturing to the Civil War.

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The Real Thing … Piques Curiosity and Opens New Insights

See objects that consider what is new about what is old. Aspects of our everyday life were once fundamentally new concepts. Find out how processes, rights and infrastructures we sometimes take for granted were originally forged.

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