Exhibitions Overview

Exhibitions at the Philadelphia History Museum invite visitors to explore more than 300 years of the city’s rich past—everything from William Penn’s utopian plans to the collective dreams of millions of Philadelphia sports fans. The Museum’s engaging exhibitions feature large-scale objects, hands-on experiences, and multimedia presentations showing you what makes Philadelphia, well, Philadelphia.

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    This orientation gallery, which opened in February 2012, offers a layered presentation of the city's entire history from the 1680s to today. More than 40 objects help to tell the story of our city's diverse citizens.

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    Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse has been a beloved destination for children and families since 1899. The exhibition will tell the story of Smith and the ever-changing landscape of play in America. Through historic photos, videos, and toys, visitors will experience Smith in fun, engaging, and enlightening ways.

    Opening Reception, October 9, 2014
    The Community History Gallery. Register for the opening reception here.

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    The exhibition, Face to Facebook, explores portraits and how Philadelphians have pictured themselves from the 17th through the 21st centuries. Twenty-five portraits by artists such as Charles Willson Peale, Thomas Sully, Gilbert Stuart, and Benjamin West are on view in the Philadelphia History Museum’s newly renovated galleries, along with daguerreotypes, vintage photographs, and early camera equipment.

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    The exhibition, The Ordinary, the Extraordinary, and the Unknown: The Power of Objects, on view at the Philadelphia History Museum, features over 100 objects and artifacts spanning 330 years of Philadelphia history. 

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    Made to be Played, an exhibition showcasing radios Philadelphia made and the world played. Presented in recognition of a generous gift of vintage radios from collector Roy Shapiro. Sepcial Member's Opening, June 19, 2014. Open to the public June 20, 2014.

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    "Workshop of the world," was a description coined in the early 1900s, to recognize Philadelphia's reputation as an industrial manufacturing center. Its fame rests on the skills and versatility of its workers who produced a variety of quality products from toys to locomotives.

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    The Museum’s Main Gallery features the world’s largest walkable map of Philadelphia, based on a Rand McNally map from 2004. Visitors are encouraged to explore the sites and coordinates critical to Philadelphia’s diverse 330 year history. Walkabout worksheets provided by the Museum allow visitors to discover historical facts from selected sites that relate to objects on view in the Museum’s galleries.

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    Between September 2013 and June 2014, stop by the exhibit cases between Terminals C and D at Philadelphia International Airport. Historic typewriters, telephones, stenographs, and adding machines from the History Museum's collection will be featured in a fascinating look at office equipment. This exhibition of historical and contemporary office equipment is devoted to objects designed to help communicate ideas, organize time, and record information, from the manual typewriter to the modern personal digital assistant.


Philadelphia History Museum
15 South 7th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Museum Hours and Admission
Tuesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
$10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 students and teens (13-18), children 12 and under free. Museum Members and active military free. $20 for Family Pack.

Administrative Office Hours
Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
215.685.4830 voice; 215.685.4837 fax

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Exhibits in Development

Do you have something special you'd like to see at the all-new city history museum? Tell us!

Do you have items you would consider donating to the Museum's collection? We are especially in need of objects representing the 20th and 21st centuries. Email or call 215.843.1713.

Exhibit Previews

The German Society of Pennsylvania: Celebrating 250 Years
Since its founding in 1764, the German Society of Pennsylvania has played an important role in Philadelphia’s History. This exhibit highlights the Society’s evolving roles and activities over the course of its 250 year history, from its charitable work, legal aid and educational efforts, to its many social and cultural activities. Featured objects include a German-language almanac for the year 1752 and Ballier Civil War-era swords (John Ballierwas a prominent Philadelphian, hotelier, and GSP member who led the primarily German-American 21st and 98th regiments of Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War). Opens April 2015, Community History Gallery.

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.

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.