Phase I "Sneak Preview" Opening February 15

Two galleries, free to the public, and new reception lobby will provide sneak preview

(Philadelphia, PA)– With the completion of a major interior renovation and updating of its 1826 historic building, the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent (15 South 7thStreet) will open two newly installed galleries that are free to the public on February 15.  This first part of a multi-phased reopening includes two exhibitions, along with a welcome foyer and lobby area.  Hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.    

After a three-year renovation of the building’s infrastructure, including all new humidity, ventilation, air conditioning, security, fire safety, elevator, and lighting systems, the Museum will open its doors in February as a preview to what will be a full reopening later this summer with four additional exhibitions.  During Phase I, visitors will be able to explore two galleries devoted to the city’s history. 

“With the opening of these spaces, visitors will get to see more than 40 special objects from our vast collection displayed in a multi-layered format that encourages interaction with the viewer, including video-recorded oral histories from contemporary Philadelphians,” explained Charles Croce, the Museum’s Executive Director.  “This dense and handsomely illustrated exhibition will offer a unique overview of our city’s 300-year history, in a compact and concise manner, complemented by our premier collection of Philadelphia artifacts.”

City Stories: An Introduction to Philadelphia invites visitors to explore the city’s history in an engaging, first person style, and to use their mobile device to add their own Philadelphia descriptions via text message.  A visual and dynamic “tag cloud” displays the collected descriptions on a monitor on the exhibition’s final panel.  PhillyCAM, Philadelphia Community Access Media, and local agency Night Kitchen Interactive handled the production and installation of the City Stories media experience, drawing upon Philadelphians’ passion for their city to offer a contemporary voice among such historic objects.

In a move to condense the amount of wall text in the compact gallery, an illuminating, interactive reader rail encircles the space, describing scenes from everyday life during different periods in the city’s growth and development.  Tablet computers will enable visitors to delve more deeply into the artifacts on display.

A second gallery, Philadelphia Voices, will offer a glimpse of what is being considered for the Museum’s remaining six galleries when the building is fully open to the public.  This “preview” gallery will outline plans for a Made in Philadelphia gallery with changing exhibitions that speak to the city’s history as the “Workshop of the World.”  Played in Philadelphia will be devoted to the history of sports, music, broadcasting, and performance in the city; while Face to Facebook and The Ordinary, the Extraordinary, and the Unknown will feature some of the collection’s iconic art and artifacts that have rarely been on public view.  Examples include Joe Frazier’s boxing gloves (ca. 1970), George Washington’s pocket watch (ca. 1789), a Passmore Williamson Family Portrait (ca. 1856), and a Women's Suffrage button (ca. 1915).    

In this space, visitors will also see exhibition plans under development for the main gallery devoted to the history of Philadelphia in the 20thcentury. Visitors will be invited to comment, offer suggestions, and even donate objects to be considered for the Museum’s collections. 

Later this year, with the opening of the full Museum, this space will become a Community History Gallery showcasing changing exhibitions conceived and designed by a wide range of groups and organizations that have contributed to the city’s history.  

“Through dialogue and civic engagement, the Community History Gallery will provide a creative forum for community members to actively contribute their voices to the city’s history museum.  Three locally-based non-profit groups will be selected annually to collaborate with Museum staff in curating their own four-month exhibition in this space. This collaboration between Museum staff and the community will be a welcome addition to our exhibition schedule,” Croce commented in describing the process of encouraging public perspectives in developing exhibitions.   

Completing the Phase One experience is a newly designed welcome foyer and lobby containing informational panels and materials; a video monitor with the current exhibition and program schedule; selected merchandise for sale; and an area for visitors to leave their books, bags, and other belongings while visiting the Museum.  A highlight of the reception area is the circular information and admissions desk made of wood cladding reclaimed and repurposed from the recent renovation of the Independence Hall tower, dating to the late 1820s. 

Complementing the Phase One opening of the Philadelphia History Museum, a number of changes have been implemented,  including a rebranding effort to clarify the institution’s mission, a dynamic new website, the launch of a Young Friends group, and the inauguration of a volunteer corps to assist with various operation and functions during public hours.

Museum members, donors and special  guests will be invited to priority preview days leading up to the public opening on Wednesday, February 15 at 11 a.m.  For additional details, visit, the Museum’s Facebook page, and Twitter feed

# # #

The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kentwas founded by City Ordinance in 1938 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia. Its 1826 building at 15 South 7th Street was designed by John Haviland as the original home of the Franklin Institute. The Museum provides historical context for issues of contemporary urban life using its premier collection of objects, paintings, and photographs in exhibitions, programs, and electronic media. The Museum is a not-for-profit educational institution governed by a Board of Trustees and supported by the City of Philadelphia, federal and state agencies, private foundations, and individual contributions. For continuing exhibition and program information, membership details, and renovation and reopening news, visit or call 215.685.4830.