This is one revolutionary museum.
At the new Museum of the American Revolution, opening April 19 in Philadelphia’s historic district, the events, people and ideals of the founding of the United States come to life.
The three-story redbrick building will contain permanent and temporary exhibit galleries, theaters, exhibition spaces and recreated historical environments that tell the story of the nation’s founding.
“While the Revolutionary War is at the center of our story, this isn’t a museum about the American Revolution — it’s about the creation of the American Republic,” said R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming.
The design takes visitors along a chronological journey, showing how the former 13 colonies broke away from English rule and became an independent republic. Its timeline starts in 1760, when the roots of the conflict took shape, and continues on through the establishment of a new government.
The museum offers a 2.0 approach to storytelling, with hands-on displays, recreated historical moments and immersive experiences, including a full-scale replica of Boston’s Liberty Tree, a site of the first stirrings of revolt; a battlefield in which visitors are on the Continental Army’s front line, facing a British assault; and a recreation of Independence Hall, when it was used as a prison for American soldiers during the British occupation in Philadelphia.
Visitors can also see Revolutionary-era artifacts, such as weapons, letters, diaries and even General George Washington’s sleeping and office tent, which is enclosed in a glass casing.
Along with Founding Fathers like Washington, the museum recognizes a diverse mix of individuals who helped form our nation, including women, free and enslaved people of African descent and native peoples. For example, visitors can listen to a recreation of the Oneida Indian Nation debating whether or not to support the Revolutionary cause.
The museum’s opening date falls on the anniversary of the start of the first battle in America’s War for Independence — the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. Its location in the City of Brotherly Love is also fitting: Our nation’s capital was once Philadelphia, before it moved to Washington, D.C.
“Philadelphia really was the headquarters of the Revolution,” said Michael Quinn, the museum’s president and CEO. “It’s where the delegates came to meet. It was the city seized by the British, fought over and lost in a turning point in the Revolution.”
In addition to exhibition and presentation spaces, the museum houses a cafe, retail store and a “Legacy Theater,” where visitors can reflect upon what led to create the foundations of American democracy.
“You walk in as a subject of an empire and a monarchy, and you leave as a citizen of the republic,” Stephenson said. “And you come right back to the present day and reflect upon the relevance in your life today of these events that took place so long ago.”