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The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

New and improved history near Independence Hall

City Stories Gallery at the Philadelphia History Museum.

City Stories Gallery at the Philadelphia History Museum. Credit: City Stories Gallery at the Philadelphia History Museum.


Experience the city’s past at the recently renovated Philadelphia History Museum. The historic 1826 building, located just around the corner from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, has been an exciting gateway into Philadelphia History for nearly 70 years.

Guests can enjoy handsomely designed galleries and encounter over 400 objects from the Museum’s vast collection of over 100,000 pieces of history.

Participate in the Philly story like never been through a variety of interactive features—even snap your own digital portrait for use in one of the galleries or online. Plus, see hundreds of priceless objects on display, including the wampum belt that the Lenni Lenape Indians gave to William Penn in 1682.

Don’t miss Experience Philadelphia, the world’s largest map of Philadelphia stretching across an entire gallery floor. In just a few steps, travel from South Philadelphia to Montgomery County and see the ordinary and extraordinary objects and images of city history.


City Stories: An Introduction to Philadelphia
Explore Philadelphia history in first person. Use your mobile device to add your own Philly descriptions via text message and see your descriptions displayed in a visual and dynamic “tag cloud” at the end of the exhibit.

Philadelphia Voices:
Northern Liberties: From World’s Workshop to Hipster Mecca and the People in Between
The permanent Community History Gallery annual showcases three exhibits designed and installed by Philadelphia-based community groups, schools or non-profits. Opening February 20, 2014, the exhibition details the transformations sweeping Northern Liberties during the past half century. Using photographs, artifacts, videos and the collected stories of the people who remember the lively postwar industrial neighborhood, the exhibition vividly illustrates the trauma of deindustrialization and depopulation and the eventual redevelopment of this uniquely Philadelphia neighborhood. The exhibition is sponsored by the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association and curated by Northern Liberties artist Jennifer Baker.

Face to Facebook
Evaluate how portraiture has changed from commissioned paintings of the 18th century to 21st century digital images used to identify ourselves in social media.

The Ordinary, the Extraordinary, and the Unknown: The Power of Objects
Discover treasured pieces of Philadelphia history in this permanent gallery. Objects are separated into four key turning points: the city’s founding in 1682, the American Revolution, Philadelphia’s post-war revival as the Capital City, and the transition from a craft based to an industrial economy through the 20th century.

Played in Philadelphia, AUTHentic Philly: Tony Auth’s Cartoons of Philadelphia
Now through April 31, 2014 over 40 works of Pulitzer Prize winner and cartoonist Tony Auth will be on view in the Museum’s Played in Philadelphia Gallery. Visitors can explore editorial and political cartoons drawn for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1972 to 2013, interact with digital elements highlighting Auth’s work today, view Auth’s drawing table and create their own cartoon for display.

Made in Philadelphia, Gifts that Gleam: Stories in Silver

The exhibition tells the story of how silver has been used by Philadelphians for over three hundred years to recognize achievement, mark important events in individual lives, and express affection and admiration for individuals and deeds. See how the city, its corporations and its well-to-do citizens recognized, honored, and celebrated in the 1700s and 1800s. That was when expensive silver—crafted by Philadelphia’s renowned silversmiths and inscribed with heartfelt messages—was the way to say, “I care, thank you, or congratulations.”


A. Atwater Kent, a wealthy inventor who manufactured early radios in Philadelphia, bought the building, the original home of the Franklin Institute, in 1938. He then gave it to the city to establish a museum dedicated to Philadelphia’s cultural and industrial history.

Kent aimed to celebrate the city’s past and inspire the future. John Haviland, who was also the architect of Eastern State Penitentiary, designed the 1826 Greek Revival building.

Good Kids’ Stuff

Kids love traversing the Delaware Valley in seconds on the world’s largest map of Philadelphia and the region. “Walkabout” worksheets take children to different sites on the map and teach them about the history of the area, as well as basic map reading skills.

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