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“Variety of unique items in a smallish museum”

Philadelphia History Museum
Ranked #87 of 444 things to do in Philadelphia
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Just steps from the Liberty Bell the new Philadelphia History Museum showcases an array of historical objects, art, and artifacts that tell the story of Philadelphia, from its founding in 1680 to present day. The Museum features eight renovated galleries, containing stunning items from its vast holdings of over 100,000 objects, and provides various interactive elements to enhance the visitor experience. On view are items ranging from George Washington’s 1790s writing desk to Joe Frasier’s 1970s Championship boxing gloves. Visitors can also take a tour of the city by walking on the world’s largest map of Philadelphia.
Level 6 Contributor
204 reviews
53 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Variety of unique items in a smallish museum”
Reviewed May 7, 2013

The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent as it is formally has a variety of historical artifacts on display almost all of which related directly to Philadelphia history. They also have a rotatating main exhibit which featured many paintings of great interest during our visit. The museum was the site of the first Franklin Institute and belonged to the pioneer radio manufacturer who's name is still maintained in the museum name.
If you have an hour to spare, you can find some interesting items displayed in a somewhat hodge-podge fashion. Museum is only a very short walk from Independence National Historic Park.

Visited April 2013
1 Thank Nick C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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86 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Philly's Attic”
Reviewed May 7, 2013

It was like being given permission to snoop through someone else's attic- all sorts of weird, beautiful and interesting things! George Washington's pocket watch, for crying out loud!!! A must for Philadelphians and anyone interested in American history.

Visited April 2013
Thank mbrPhiladelphia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 3 Contributor
24 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Worth a short trip”
Reviewed March 24, 2013

I agree that this museum has more resonance for native philadelphians but its quirky collection will probably appeal to a larger audience. The cohesiveness does need a bit of improving. There's not quite enough for the field trip group or the adult tourist group for more than an hour or so and i think the $10 admission is a little steep. All in all we enjoyed it and i think it will improve w/ time

Visited February 2013
Thank motravel13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Level 5 Contributor
85 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“A Quaint, Affordable Way to Learn Philly History”
Reviewed February 17, 2013

First of all, this is not going to compare with the art museum or the constitution center. This museum is tiny and focused only on the history of Philadelphians. If you have no interest in learning about Philadelphians, you may not want to stop here. Or maybe you will since admission is only $10 for adults/$8 for seniors/$6 for students. The docents/guides are very kind and helpful, offering to answer any questions you might have throughout your time there.

The first gallery includes an exhibit which gives a historical timeline of Philadelphia. A few artifacts and films are sprinkled throughout the room. The next room is, in my opinion, the most impressive. The room's entire floor is a 40'x40' map of Philadelphia, its western suburbs, and central Jersey. This room would actually be a great place to come at the start of a weekend or week in Philadelphia so that you can get a sense of the locations of the various neighborhoods and how to navigate the city.

Upstairs there are a few small galleries with artifacts from the 17th-21st centuries. I thought the most unique and interesting artifacts were various cast iron devices used to torture slaves. I'd never seen anything like these at any of the other museums I'd been to (including the African American Museum in Philly and the various Smithsonian museums in DC). Busts, paintings, toys, weapons, household items, and garments make up the rest of this exhibit. Each room seems to have a theme geared towards school-aged children, like "What do objects teach us about history? What do objects tell us about people's daily lives?" etc. so it seems like a good place to take children, although it's not exactly a "hands-on" type of museum.

The special exhibits include a large room full of portraits and photographs of Philadelphians as well as two smaller rooms, one called "Made in Philly" (about the tradition of brewing beer in Philadelphia) and another called "Played in Philly" (about the Philadelphia Phillies). These last two rooms were quite small and displayed what is probably only a small portion of the beer and baseball memorabilia that exists in the city. Still, I learned a lot about the brewing tradition and a little bit about the Phillies from touring these rooms.

In all, my husband and I spent about an hour in this museum, which is certainly all you need. As life-long Pennsylvanians who have only recently become Philadelphia-area residents, we enjoyed learning a bit about the history of our new city.

Visited February 2013
1 Thank JJ484
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Level 2 Contributor
3 reviews
“New and Improved Museum”
Reviewed January 30, 2013

The recent 2012 reopening of the Philadelphia History Museum (previously Atwater Kent Museum) makes for a great supplement to the old-city historical tour. The museum has an impressive collection of works. The modern clean space displays may of these works to tell a unique story about Philadelphians. The museum is smaller compared to some of the city's giants but makes for a nice compliment as you explore the city. Make sure to check out the rotating "Made in Philadelphia" "Played in Philadelphia" exhibits. As the museum continues down its new path, no doubt the exhibits will become more robust. As the city's only history museum, it is definitely worth a stop in. I will certainly return periodically to explore new exhibits as they come available.

Visited October 2012
Thank Steven W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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