With the Fourth of July right around the corner, now is the perfect time to visit the brand new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The museum opened on April 19, exactly 242 years after the “shot heard ’round the world” started the Revolutionary War. This museum’s unique exhibits and galleries create an immersive experience using artifacts, films and remarkable tableaus featuring realistic lifelike figures to depict the revolution. The museum’s mission is not to glorify the idealized version of our nation’s history that so many people are familiar with, but rather to encourage people to think critically about the events preceding and following the Revolutionary War, and to learn more about the struggles that came with declaring independence.
It is fitting that the museum is located in historic Philadelphia, right across from Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States and a few blocks from Independence Hall. “The American Revolution was one of the most important events of all time and very much of it happened right here in this great, storied city,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough, who spoke at the dedication. “The opening of this magnificent museum is not just a moment to celebrate here in Philadelphia, but all over our country.”
The museum was built with more than $150 million in mostly private donations, including significant support from the museum’s chairman emeritus of the board of directors, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest. Mr Lenfest is a philanthropist who, though not Jewish, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both the National Museum of American Jewish History and The American Friends of the Israel Museum. He is credited with being a driving force behind the museum’s creation, through his own philanthropic support as well as his fundraising efforts.
The museum takes visitors on a journey that starts a decade before the war, when British subjects started becoming revolutionaries as the rebellion took shape. It continues through the Revolutionary War, and examines the challenges that America’s forefathers faced when forming a new government. The museum also goes to great lengths to include the stories of people whose narratives don’t often take center stage in history, including women, slaves and Native Americans.
The museum has a collection of several thousand objects, works of art, manuscripts and printed works from the period of the American Revolution. Perhaps its most notable relic is the actual tent that served as George Washington’s office and living quarters. “The museum will finally provide a place for Americans to gain an understanding of the broad sweep of the revolution—why so many placed their lives at risk in the fight for the freedoms we enjoy today,” said Michael Quinn, president and CEO of the museum. “It will help people understand that the ideals of the revolutionary are the foundation of our democracy and continue to guide our experiment in self-government.”
If all of this history is making you hungry, Philadelphia has a number of kosher eateries throughout the city. If you’re willing to go a bit out of your way, there are too many eateries to list here; if you’re looking for something within a 15-minute drive, there is Mama’s Vegetarian for falafel and other Middle Eastern fare; Center City Soft Pretzel Company; and Homemade Goodies by Roz, a pareve bakery just half a mile from the museum.
Museum of the American Revolution, 101 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA, www.amrevmuseum.org
By Rachel Jager