The final touches are being put on the Museum of the American Revolution, which opens on April 19 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 118,000-square-foot museum includes thousands of artifacts, as well as high-tech and interactive experiences to tell the story of the founding of the United States.
“The revolution created our nation and established our core beliefs,” Michael Quinn, the museum’s president, told TFK. “This museum tells that story.”
The museum has been in the works for many years, Quinn says. It tells the story of the Revolution chronologically. Visitors learn about the Native peoples, European groups, and enslaved and free African Americans who lived in the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America in 1776.
“One thing we communicate is that North America at the time of the Revolution was a very complex society,” Quinn says. “We introduce visitors to people from all walks of life. We want visitors to understand that the Revolution impacted every single one of these people.”
A Vast Collection
Through different types of relics and artwork, the museum’s collection helps tell the story of the American Revolution. Quinn notes that one highlight is George Washington’s headquarters tent. It served as his office and sleeping quarters throughout much of the war, and is where he met with generals and other officials.
The collection also includes many personal belongings from people who lived during that period, including a belt, a canteen, and a variety of weapons used in the war. A digital interactive display lets visitors virtually handle weapons and learn more about how they were used.
The Battlefield Theater is another interactive experience. Visitors are turned into soldiers and taught to march together in formation. There is also a large-scale replica of a ship that visitors can climb on. A large tree replicates Boston’s Liberty Tree, where the American colonists used to gather to plan their revolt against Great Britain.
“This is an immersive environment, and we offer a lot of ways for visitors to engage,” Quinn adds.
The museum also highlights the experiences of children during the war. Its collection includes toys that were excavated from campsites around New York City. A small white stoneware lamb can be seen on display, along with a little pewter toy broom and platter. Descendants of a Massachusetts soldier donated a newborn's shoes that were made from a British red coat that was brought back at the end of the war.
Quinn notes that there is renewed interest lately in the time period of the Revolution. He attributes this in part to the successful Broadway show Hamilton, which takes place before, during and after the Revolution, as well as to recent changes in our top levels of government.
“At a time of uncertainty, we look to our history and our founding,” Quinn says. “That’s what gives us our identity as an American people.”