News & Updates
22 Museum Highlights from 2022December 19, 2022
What a year it was for the Museum of the American Revolution! From celebrating our fifth anniversary and announcing a transformative gift to acquiring exciting new objects and welcoming luminaries to our stages, it was truly an unforgettable year. We offer our most sincere thanks to our in-person and digital visitors, Museum Members, donors, and friends. Without your support, none of this would be possible.
Before the calendar flips to 2023, take a look back at 22 Museum highlights from 2022, listed in no particular order.
A Monumental Gift
In April, we announced that we will receive a total of approximately $50 million from the estate of H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, the Museum’s Founding Chairman, who passed away in 2018. The monumental gift – the largest single gift in the Museum’s history – nearly doubles the Museum’s endowment, strengthening the Museum’s sustainability for years to come.
Celebrating Our Fifth Anniversary
On April 19, we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our 2017 grand opening. In the five years since opening our doors, the Museum has welcomed more than a million visitors from around the world to experience our nuanced, “warts-and-all” (New York Times) telling of the American Revolution, and millions more have experienced its rich, complex, and inspiring story through virtual programs and resources.
The Museum and our staff won a number of institutional and individual awards in 2022, including a silver-level Anthem Award from the Webby Awards in the "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Category" for our Finding Freedom online interactive, a 2022 Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for our 2020-2021 special exhibition When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807, and a 2022 Institutional Achievement Award from PA Museums also for When Women Lost the Vote, among other awards.
Keeping the Spirit Alive
Harvard University historian and award-winning filmmaker, author, and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was awarded the 2022 Lenfest Spirit of the American Revolution Award at a sold-out evening gala at the Museum in June 2022. Governor Edward G. Rendell was presented with the inaugural Chairman’s Award.
In Support of Ukraine
In March 2022, the Museum joined several well-known sites and institutions in Philadelphia’s historic district to support democratic ideals in Ukraine and around the world following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The institutions donated 100 percent of all admissions proceeds on March 19 to UNICEF to support its efforts to deliver aid to the hundreds of thousands of children and families suffering from the effects of the war in Ukraine.
Building Towards 2026
The Museum received a $75,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support planning for the major special exhibition The Declaration’s Journey: 250 Years of America’s Founding Document, which will open at the Museum in 2025 and run through 2026 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
A Distinguished Lecture
Political theorist, author, and Harvard professor Dr. Danielle Allen joined the Museum as the distinguished lecturer for the fourth annual Carl M. Buchholz Memorial Lecture in January. Her talk focused on her groundbreaking book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality.
A Trove of Rare Documents
The Patriots of Color Archive was acquired from a private collection, thanks to the generosity of several donors. The collection of nearly 200 documents, including original muster rolls, pay vouchers, enlistment papers, discharge forms, and more, reveals the military service of men of African and Native American descent who served in the ranks of the Continental Army.
Growing Our Collection
In addition to the Patriots of Color Archive, we continued growing our collection with objects, art, and manuscripts, including a 1774 newspaper printing of a letter written by African American poet Phillis Wheatley, thanks to American Heritage Credit Union and the Museum’s Collections Society; a portrait of Stephen “Don Esteban” Minor, who fought with the Spanish Army during the Revolutionary War, thanks to Iberdrola; a manuscript memorandum book containing copies of multiple documents related to Nicholas Quackenbush (1734-1813), Assistant Deputy Quartermaster at Supply Depot of Albany, New York, thanks to John Gates Bennett and Louise Bingham Bennett; a group of seven items associated with Lt. Col. Persifor Frazer and his family, thanks to Brian D. Draper and Graham Dougherty; among others.
Painting the Revolutionary War
Throughout the run of our special exhibit Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War, which closed on Labor Day, nearly 60,000 visitors viewed the dramatic and research-based works of nationally renowned historical artist Don Troiani that bring the compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events of the American Revolution to life. The exhibit lives on online in a 360-degree virtual tour complete with panoramic gallery images, high-resolution photos of the art and artifacts, and a guided audio tour of the dramatic.
Naturalizing America's Newest Citizens
Dozens of new American citizens from across the globe were naturalized at three ceremonies hosted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Museum's Liberty Hall in 2022. The Museum also continued to host its free, seasonal Citizenship Initiative classes, which support Philadelphia’s growing immigrant population pursuing American citizenship by helping these individuals prepare for the United States naturalization test.
A New Online Exhibit
We recently launched our new online exhibit, Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier, which follows the little-known story of Irish soldier and artist Richard St. George, whose personal trauma and untimely death provide a window into the entangled histories of the American Revolution of 1776 and the Irish Revolution of 1798. The online exhibit was adapted from the onsite special exhibit of the same name, which ran at the Museum from September 2019 through March 2020.
Gathering Scholars and Collectors
In April, the Museum hosted the 2022 Conference on Collecting the Revolutionary War, which brought historians, museum professionals, and collectors together to discuss how ideas about objects have influenced collecting and public history over the past 250 years. Special thanks to our sponsors, Freeman's, Bonhams Skinner, and American Battlefield Trust, for their support.
Lights, Camera, Action!
In July, Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson and Director of Education & Community Engagement Adrienne Whaley lent their expertise to an episode of NBC’s acclaimed genealogy series, “Who Do You Think You Are?,” featuring actor Nick Offerman. In November, an episode of HISTORY’s new series, “Pawn Stars Do America,” aired an episode filmed at the Museum with curator Mark Turdo and Brian Hendelson, a generous lender and supporter of the Museum.
First in Class
Over the summer, five Philadelphia-area high school and college students participated in and graduated from the Museum’s inaugural Living History Youth Summer Institute. The six-week summer institute, which ran for the first time this summer in July and August 2022, provided an intensive course for five young adults interested in interpreting the lives of people of African ancestry in the Revolutionary era as part of our African American Interpretive Program, thanks to support from Comcast NBCUniversal.
Creating a Museum for All
In addition to daily accessibility efforts, the Museum relaunched sensory-friendly relaxed experience mornings on the second Sunday of each month and launched quarterly events dedicated to ASL interpretation. Additionally, the Museum has added a handful of raised tactile images of paintings featured in the core galleries and Liberty, thanks to the Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired, as well as a French-translated audio tour.
A New Slate of Programs
Throughout the year, the Museum debuted new one-time and continuing programs, including Revolution at the Library, which offered free programs at libraries throughout the city in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia; State Constitutions Palooza, which offered interactive, family-friendly activities that delved into the curious, creative, and challenging aspects of state constitutions, thanks to support from the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History; and AmRev Seminars, which offer multi-week courses for participants to expand their knowledge of the Revolutionary era.
Bringing History to Life
Throughout 2022, we continued to bring history to life through first- and third-person costumed living history interpretation through initiatives and programs like Occupied Philadelphia, which recreates the 1777-78 British occupation of the city with dozens of costumed interpreters; Meet the Revolution, which welcomed Jordan and Kehala Smith, Daryian Kelton, Kalela Williams, and Nathan Alford-Tate to explore the voices, viewpoints, and experiences of the diverse people of the Revolutionary era; an artisans and makers weekend to learn more about Esther de Berdt Reed and the Ladies Association of Philadelphia as well as Benjamin Flower and his artificers regiment; and first-person theatrical performances exploring the stories of James Forten, Elizabeth Freeman, and Joseph Plumb Martin.
Welcoming Revolutionary Authors
We closed out the 2021-22 season of our signature Read the Revolution Speaker Series by welcoming historian Kari Winter along with Rhonda Brace, descendant of Jeffrey Brace, a formerly enslaved man who published a memoir in 1810, as well as Friederike Baer for a look at the Revolutionary War from the perspective from Hessian soldiers. We then opened the 2022-23 season in November by welcoming William Hogeland for a deep dive about Alexander Hamilton and finance in the founding era.
Growing an Engaged Social Audience
Early in the year, the Museum surpassed 100,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. We continue to expand usage of short-form video platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Reels as we grow a highly engaged audience across various platforms and share the nuanced and complex stories of the Revolutionary era.
Expanding Our Visual Storytelling
In addition to livestreaming many Museum lectures and events, we continued to expand our collection of produced video series, including our AmRev360 interview series and our short-form Why the Revolution topical dives. Guests on AmRev360 throughout the year included Pulitzer Prize-winner Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, archaeologist Wade Catts, Native American educators Jordan and Kehala Smith, and public historian Marvin-Alonzo Greer, among others. Why the Revolution tackled a number of interesting topics throughout the year, including spooky stories, chamber pots, 18th-century tattoos, and much more.
Preparing for 2023
Our upcoming special exhibition, Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, opening on Feb. 11, 2023, will introduce visitors to free Black Philadelphian James Forten and his descendants as they navigated the American Revolution and cross-racial relationships in Philadelphia to become leaders in the abolition movement in the lead-up to the Civil War and the women's suffrage movement.
We can’t wait to see you at the Museum in 2023!