Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Museum of the American Revolution – Philadelphia Beyond the Liberty Bell

by Suzanne Fluhr on July 16, 2017 · 30 comments

Diorama from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

Those visiting Philadelphia to steep themselves in the early history of the United States will find the Museum of the American Revolution to be a worthy addition to “America’s most historic square mile”.

I’m a life long Philadelphian and an unashamed history geek. When I was growing up, an immersive dive into the history of the American Revolution required a visit to the Valley Forge National Historic Park, some 25 miles northwest of Center City Philadelphia.

Valley Forge is where the bedraggled, cold, hungry and ill Continental Army under George Washington spent the winter of 1777-78 while the British occupied Philadelphia, then the largest city and capital of the United States. The small museum there held Revolutionary War artifacts, including George Washington’s campaign tent.

Portrait of George Washington from the Museum of the American Revoluation

While the Valley Forge National HistoricalPark is still worth a visit and is quite lovely for a walk or bike ride among reconstructed soldiers’ huts and colonial era farm buildings, the Museum of the American Revolution opened on April 19, 2017 at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, only two and a half blocks from Independence Hall. Thus, it is easily included in a visit to the historic Philadelphia area.

Mission of the Museum of the American Revolution

The museum’s website explains that its mission is to:

[tell the] dynamic story of the American Revolution using its rich collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, letters, diaries, and works of art.

The museum uses “immersive galleries, theater experiences, and recreated historical environments [to] bring to life the events, people, and ideals of our nation’s founding and engage people in the history and continuing relevance of the American Revolution.”

Visiting Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution

I recommend starting in the ground floor theater to watch the closed captioned introductory video which runs every 20 minutes. The film expounds on the basic themes of the Museum.

If you need to wait, as I did, this is a good time to scope out the adjacent museum gift shop. In addition to the usual tee shirts and souvenirs, the spacious shop has some artifact reproductions from the era. It also has a collection of relevant books which kept me happily browsing for the 17 minutes I had to wait.

Diorama from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

George Washington found it difficult, but ultimately not impossible, to meld soldiers from disparate backgrounds into an effective, unified fighting force. In this diorama, he is breaking up a fight among members of his “army”.

The museum galleries are on the second floor, organized chronologically and by theme. Each gallery is filled with historical artifacts, staged mannequins, and immersive experiences such as short films. There is an impressive “you are there” flash bang exposition on the Battle of Brandywine.

The visitor is led through the history of the American Revolution, covering:

Becoming Revolutionaries (1760-1776): This gallery addresses the antecedents of the American colonies’ debates and  ultimate decision to declare independence from Great Britain

The Darkest Hour (1776-1778): This gallery chronicles the difficult years during which the former colonists faced repeated military defeats and internal conflicts as they battled the highly professional and powerful British force which was aided by Hessian mercenaries “rented’ by the British King George III from the German Landgrave (Prince) of Hesse-Cassel.

Privateer ship at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

In an exhibit about naval warfare during the American Revolution, you can clamber aboard the deck of a “licensed” privateer ship.

A Revolutionary War (1778-1783): This part of the museum addresses issues germane to modern sensibilities such as how the Revolutionary War impacted enslaved Africans, women, and the Oneida Nation, a native American tribe that broke with the Iroquois Confederacy to join the colonial revolutionaries.

A New Nation (1783-present): This gallery overs the post-Revolutionary War period as the people of the United States live with a revolution that is “unfulfilled, yet enduring”.

One of the Museum highlights is a dedicated theater featuring George Washington’s field tent, where the story of Washington’s leadership is recounted. Apparently, this presentation is quite moving, but I will have to return to see it as my visit was cut short by a power failure.

The power failure also prevented me from visiting the Museum’s Cross Keys Cafe. According to the Museum’s website, what I missed was: “colonial-era inspired dishes, locally sourced produce, a made-to-order barista menu, and seasonal outdoor seating.” Museum admission is not required to access the Cafe, so perhaps I’ll check it out for lunch one day.

Childrens' Patriots Gallery at the Museum of the American Revolution in PhiladelphiaIf you are visiting the Museum with children or still have an inner child, visit the first floor, spacious “Patriots’ Gallery”, a space where people of all ages can dress up in period attire, battle with wooden muskets, and/or sit down and draw.

If you are a curmudgeon like I am have a limited tolerance for swarming groups of children, it is probably best to time your visit for after 2:00 p.m. during the school year.

Final Verdict: The Museum of the American Revolution is a well curated, visually engaging modern museum, covering a seminal aspect of American history. I spent over two hours here and would have stayed longer but for the power failure.

Help for Non English speakers and those with handicaps.

The Museum is accessible for handicapped individuals. Personal care attendants may accompany those in their care free of charge and service animals are permitted.

I was informed the Museum is working on translations of the Museum Guide and Map into Mandarin, French, German, Spanish and Japanese which should be available shortly.

The Museum is also planning to produce audio guides in various languages, and hopefully, in English for use by the visually impaired.

Based on my experiences in world class museums, audio guides would be an excellent addition to the Museum of the American Revolution experience, even for those for whom English is a first language. I sometimes had trouble being able to read all I wanted to in the galleries because others were blocking my view. There was also an “interactive” feature that I don’t believe worked well. It requires the visitor to lift a cover to read information, pretty much limiting it to use by one person at a time.

With audio guides, it is also possible to add additional content for those who would like more information about particular topics.

If you go:

The Museum has a helpful website with a portal to purchase timed tickets. Timed tickets are  good for two days. At present, adult admission is a fairly steep $19.00 with discounts to $17.00 for certain classifications. There is reciprocity with some other national museum memberships.

Summer Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Looking for more Revolutionary War related sites to visit in and around Philadelphia?

Check out this website.

Have you visited the USA’s “most historic square mile”? Does the Museum of the American Revolution sound like one that would interest you?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Carol Colborn July 17, 2017 at 1:40 am

Been to the historic square mile twice plus the ones in Concord. This addition would be a reason to go again plus Valley Forge, of course!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 17, 2017 at 2:23 am

Yes, for people with a car, I think it is still worth it to visit Valley Forge, especially on a nice day. Most of the artifacts have been moved to this new museum, but they can’t move Valley Forge National Historic Park!

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avatar Catarina July 17, 2017 at 5:07 am

Have never even been to Philadelphia and have hence obviously not visited the museum. It’s a timely post because if politicians in D.C. don’t manage to give poor Americans a better life there may be another revolution.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 12:20 am

Hopefully, our next “revolution” won’t be a shooting war. There has to be a better way.

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avatar Irene S. Levine July 17, 2017 at 7:58 am

Thanks for the motivation and all the helpful hints to make a visit to the Museum of the American Revolution worthwhile!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

It’s probably time for another visit to Philadelphia. In addition to the Museum of the American Revolution, I think the Barnes Museum is also an addition to Philly’s museum collection that you may not have yet seen.

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avatar Lenie July 17, 2017 at 10:04 am

Suzanne, I loved this tour of the Museum of the American Revolution, so interesting. Like you I am a history buff but more focused on people and their way of life throughout history. Of course when you read about people you are naturally drawn in to the places they settled. Their bravery and fortitude always astounds me.

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avatar Rachel Heller July 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

The American Revolution is a particularly interesting war, in that an essentially untrained, unprepared rabble took on a much better-organized army and eventually won. The museum sounds great! (The Liberty Bell just never really interested me.)

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 12:27 am

I think you’re probably remembering “your father’s Liberty Bell”. It is now housed in a museum itself—no longer isolated in a historically jarring glass pavilion in the middle of Independence Mall. In addition to telling the physical story of the Bell itself, the museum also chronicles the Bell’s life as a symbol in American life, including for the Abolishinist Movement.

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avatar Emily July 17, 2017 at 8:51 pm

I really like visiting museums. It is a great way to learn about something and to become more educated. This would be a great learning experience.

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avatar roz warren July 17, 2017 at 11:19 pm

Fascinating! Thanks. I look forward to seeing the George Washington artifacts.

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avatar Madaline Resendes July 18, 2017 at 12:20 am

Sounds like a great museum. Will definitely put it on my “to do” list for the next time I am in Philly. I read a book awhile ago about the part of the war when they really did not know which way it would go, and it warn’t lookin’ good. How George Washington endured the awesome responsibility he took on, or had thrust upon him?, often in such dire circumstances, it is hard to say. Sounds like the museum will be illuminating.

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avatar Phoenicia July 18, 2017 at 3:53 am

I have never visited this museum but I have a vetted interest in history; it was one of my favourite subjects at school. My history teacher had this ability to transfer us back in time.

I have visited a number of museums in the UK, most of which are free.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 4:28 am

Museums run by the National Park Service in Philadelphia are also free.

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avatar Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields July 18, 2017 at 4:34 am

I am going to have to put this on our to-visit list. We have very fond memories of Philadelphia. When our boys were younger we decided to take them to a baseball game. The one we went to was in Philadelphia. We had NO IDEA what the rules were or really how to watch the game but the locals around us, no doubt hearing our Australian accents, pretty soon got the idea we were newbies. They explained the game to us, told us what we should look for and even got us up for the 7th (or6th?) innings stretch. It was such a wonderful experience.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I think Philadelphians have an overblown reputation for being uncouth. Everyone I know who visits Philly tells me how friendly people were.

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avatar Karen Warren July 18, 2017 at 4:57 am

I love historic places too, and “America’s most historic square mile” sounds very appealing! I almost got to Philidephia when I was in New York last year – perhaps next time…

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avatar Marquita Herald July 18, 2017 at 5:11 am

Fascinating! I have been to Philadelphia many times, but always on business so I’m sad to say that (so far) I have missed out on sightseeing. I do enjoy museums and this looks like a must see, so if I ever make it back to that area I will definitely pay a visit. Thanks!

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avatar Anita @ No Particular Place To Go July 18, 2017 at 10:15 am

You had me at the “history geeks” Suzanne. We’ve been to Philadelphia a couple of times now for brief visits since we have family that lives in New Jersey and have seen some of the sights including the Liberty Bell which IMO, was almost as moving as seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. We’ll definitely make a plan to see the Museum of the American Revolution when we visit the city again and Valley Forge too. A stop at the cafe might be kind of fun too as I’m wondering what a colonial-era inspired dish might be!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Chicken pot pie is one. Yum!

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avatar Marilyn Jones July 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

I am with you about being a history geek. When I worked in Philadelphia I often visited the historic sites on my lunch hour. Now I have a reason to return!! The Museum of the American Revolution looks amazing and so well though out!!

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avatar Jeri July 19, 2017 at 8:35 pm

The Museum of the American Revolution sounds like a must-see attraction. I always like to start with an overview video when one is available. I really need to get to Philly one of these days!

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avatar William Rusho July 20, 2017 at 1:46 pm

This does sound like a wonderful museum, and I am a history geek.
The ebbs and flows of the American Revolution can be pointed to several historical events. Valley Forge is the most significant, if the army was on the verge of being defeated, or even broke up by desertion. It was being able to survive during this time that allowed the revolution to continue, and eventually succeed.
Thanks for sharing.

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avatar Claire Duffy July 20, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I’m a history geek too and have always been fascinated by the American Revolution (I read the Constitution when I did history ‘A’ level and was hooked!) I haven’t been able to visit Philadelphia yet, but now know where my first stop will be when I do – thanks!

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs July 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Thx for sharing this great post about the Museum of the American Revolution, Suzanne! It looks like a fascinating place to visit.

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avatar Donna at Destinations Detours and Dreams July 21, 2017 at 12:08 pm

The Museum of the American Revolution sounds like an interesting visit. I took like digging into history. It sounds as if this museum gives lots of opportunity to get the feeling of “being there”.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 22, 2017 at 12:08 am

It delivers a heavy dose of important history—with a little flash bang included to make sure you’re awake.

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avatar Nathalie July 22, 2017 at 1:58 pm

I would definitely go after 2pm 🙂
As a kid, it would be a great way to learn about the American Revolution, much better than just reading about it in a book.

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avatar Andy July 23, 2017 at 12:38 am

Let me put on my Jonathan Swift hat and offer ‘a modest proposal’.

The Museum of the American Revolution should display large photographs of Queen Elizabeth II and President Donald Trump with an accompanying caption that reads: “So, was the American Revolution worth it, folks? Who would you rather be ruled by today?”

What do you think the reaction would be, Mrs./Ms. Excitement?

BTW, you know you are Boomeresque if you know who Commander McBragg is and that The World of Commander McBragg (almost) always ends with the Commander saying “Quite”. 😉

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avatar Sue Reddel July 23, 2017 at 6:59 pm

We really need a visit to Philadelphia. This museum sounds like one we’d really enjoy. I’m a huge fan of the audio headphones to get all the details behind the stories.

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