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When you picture Philadelphia museums, you probably think of museums relating to the Liberty Bell, the founding fathers and colonial America. However, while there are certainly plenty of museums devoted to Philly’s crucial role in American history, there are plenty of other museums to explore, too. This city is home to numerous historical and educational centers where you can learn more about art, science and more.
This brief guide will take you through 10 of the best museums in Philadelphia to help you plan your next afternoon in the city. There’s a museum for everyone in Philadelphia! Keep reading to find one that fits your interests.
Opened in 2017, the Museum of the American Revolution is one of the newest museums in Philadelphia. This museum features interactive exhibits, inspiring stories and interesting artifacts to give visitors a complete lesson on the American Revolution.
Though the museum covers the most well-known Revolutionary War moments, like George Washington at Valley Forge, it also provides details on aspects of the war you may not know, such as the experiences of Native Americans and African Americans. As a result, you get to see all sides of the story.
If you’re a fan of American history, the Museum of the American Revolution will be a great way to begin your journey through Philadelphia’s museums!
Even if you haven’t been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you probably know it from the movie “Rocky,” where the film’s eponymous hero trains by climbing the museum’s 72 stone steps. However, this museum has so much more to offer than just being a movie location — with paintings, ceramics, sculptures and even the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States, there’s something for everyone here.
The museum has four floors, with exhibits ranging from modern and contemporary art to European medieval art. It houses the world’s most extensive collection of Marcel Duchamp’s works, several “period rooms” that illustrate destinations like Japan and southern India and a collection of contemporary pieces from local Philadelphia artists.
As the largest university museum in the U.S., Penn Museum certainly deserves a visit. The museum is located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, and it’s devoted to educating visitors about archaeology and anthropology.
The Penn Museum has galleries of archaeological artifacts from around the world, including the Middle East, Central America, Greece, China and more. The exhibits were renovated in June 2021, making it the perfect opportunity for a visit, whether it’s your first time or you’ve already attended.
When you visit, don’t miss the Penn Museum’s most famous artifact — a 25,000-pound Sphinx of Ramses II, the largest sphinx in the Western hemisphere!
Though not technically a museum, Independence Hall is one of Philadelphia’s most popular historic landmarks, and the park rangers on hand lead tours to give the national park a museum feel.
As the room where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed, every American should have Independence Hall on their bucket list! Nearby, you can check out other historical areas like Carpenters Hall and the Liberty Bell Center, and you can take walking tours of the surrounding area or check out exhibits like the Portrait Gallery at the Second Bank.
For lovers of American history, Independence Hall will provide endless learning opportunities and exciting attractions.
The Franklin Institute is an excellent museum for science lovers. The museum has something for all ages, but its emphasis on interactivity and exploration makes it especially appealing for kids and teenagers. Aside from its main exhibits, the Franklin Institute also draws crowds with its temporary special exhibits, ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Marvel comics. The museum’s upcoming exhibit on Harry Potter, premiering in early 2022, is sure to be exciting!
Upon entering the museum, you’ll pass a statue of Benjamin Franklin, the namesake of the museum — but the exhibits are just beginning at this point. Other highlights of the museum include a walk-through giant heart, an observatory and a George Rhoads kinetic sculpture.
For those who want to dive into American and Philadelphia history and culture specifically, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is a great choice. Stretching from the colonial era to modern times, this museum sheds new light on the African American experience.
Whether you’re interested in learning more about history, checking out some stunning pieces of artwork or simply broadening your view of the world, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is the perfect place to visit. This fall 2021, you can check out the work of Richard J. Watson, an acclaimed artist who has painted numerous murals throughout Philly. There are also several online exhibits you can explore.
For people interested in American history and politics, the National Constitution Center — a museum devoted entirely to the U.S. Constitution — is the perfect place to visit. With plenty of interactive displays and immersive exhibits, the National Constitution Center will teach you about the nation’s history and keep you interested along the way.
One of the museum’s most iconic exhibits is Signers’ Hall, where 42 life-size statues of the Founding Fathers are arranged to model the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787. Other great exhibits are interactive voting booths, an opportunity to recite the presidential oath of office and a chance to act as a Supreme Court justice.
Though less frequented than the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is the museum to visit if you’re a true art connoisseur. It’s the first and oldest art school and museum in the U.S., and its exhibits are currently spread across two buildings.
While the Philadelphia Museum of Art has a wide array of art collections from across the world, PAFA focuses on collecting and displaying American art, particularly from the 19th and 20th centuries. If you want to visit the museum when it’s buzzing with excitement, try to time your visit around the Annual Student Exhibition, where PAFA students display their art in the museum’s galleries.
The Benjamin Franklin Museum was created to allow visitors to learn more about Benjamin Franklin’s life, character and legacy. Located just a short distance from Independence Hall, this museum is a wonderful spot to discover more about the colonial era and one of the most famous founding fathers.
The museum is divided into five rooms, with each room devoted to exploring one of Franklin’s most notable traits. Interspersed throughout these rooms are rare artifacts, interactive displays and videos. Make sure you also check out a room called the Library, where you can watch a video about Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography!
If you’re looking for free museums in Philadelphia, here’s the perfect place for you! The Science History Institute is free to visit, and it’s just as intriguing and exciting as the other museums on this list.
The Science History Institute’s permanent exhibit takes you through over 500 years of scientific discovery, outlining the scientific advances behind many of the everyday objects we use now. The museum also hosts the Object Explorer, an interactive display that gives you a look at the history and material composition of a diverse assortment of objects. There’s something to love for every science enthusiast at the Science History Institute.
With so many museums and other attractions like zoos, aquariums and historical centers, Philadelphia provides easy access to fun excursions and exciting activities for its residents. If you’re thinking about moving to Philly or are simply interested in learning more about living in Philadelphia, contact Streamline today!