Visiting the Museum of the American Revolution

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It will surprise many people that there was never a national museum dedicated to the American Revolution, especially in light of the myriad devoted to the Civil War. Happily, this omission was rectified in April 2017, when the Museum of the American Revolution (MAR) opened in – where else – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Having made a visit there, I can say with confidence that this new museum is an unparalleled treasure trove of artifacts connected to the conflict out of which the United States of America was born. For instance, there are fragments of New York City’s statue of King George III, pulled down and broken to pieces by Patriots.

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The MAR’s collection includes several thousand items, including artwork and sculpture, textiles and weapons, manuscripts and rare books. In addition, the museum boasts permanent and special exhibition galleries, theaters and full-scale tableaux that help bring the American Revolution to life. The museum does a great job of explaining the roles played by, and attitudes of, colonists, the British (and their Hessian mercenaries) and Native American tribes. The war had a big effect on the latter, as the six tribes of the Oneida Confederacy split on the issue of whether they ought to support the colonists or the British.

The Revolutionary War experience is divided into four sections:

Becoming Revolutionaries (1760-1775)

The Darkest Hour (1776-1778)

A Revolutionary War (1778-1783)

A New Nation (1783-the present)

Episcopalian priest W. Herbert Burk (1867-1933) assembled, over the course of decades, artifacts that formed the core of the Museum of the American Revolution. Many of these items were donated to Reverend Burk by descendants of the original owners. The “crown jewel” of the collection is undoubtedly George Washington’s field (campaign) tent. Burk purchased the large tent in 1909, first displaying it in the Valley Forge Museum of American History, predecessor to the Valley Forge Historical Society. You can learn more about the journey General Washington’s tent took the the MAR here: https://www.amrevmuseum.org/collection/washington-headquarters-tent.

One of the things I like best about the museum is the large number of tableaux it contains. Perhaps the most riveting shows Washington breaking up a fight between troops whose pride and sectional differences led to bitter rivalries within the Continental Army.

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I don’t know that one could derive full benefit from this museum by a single day’s visit. Should you find yourself in Philly I highly recommend investing at least two days in tourng the Museum of the American Revolution.

 

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