Niz Proskocil 2018-01-10 00:03:38
One of the first things visitors should know about Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center is that although early U.S. history, government and politics take center stage, museumgoers don’t have to be versed in those topics to get caught up in its allure. I’ve never been a political junkie or history buff, yet I was fascinated as I explored dozens of exhibits, artifacts, photos and interactive displays during a recent visit. Unlike in my high-school American Government class eons ago, my eyes didn’t glaze over from information overload or boredom, mainly because the Constitution Center is the kind of place where we the people get a civics lesson in a compelling and entertaining way. Spirit of Democracy Opened July 4, 2003, the center stands at the north end of Independence Mall and is two blocks from Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. In contrast to the historic redbrick hall’s Georgian architecture, the museum is a sleek limestone building with strong horizontal lines. Looking out its expansive glass walls offers a splendid view of the hall and its graceful Colonial tower. Most museumgoers start their visit with “Freedom Rising,” a theatrical production staged multiple times a day in the Sidney Kimmel Theater. Presented in-the-round, the dramatic performance tells America’s story from Revolutionary times to the present. A narrator delivers a stirring monologue surrounded by images and video clips projected on the walls. “Who are we? What makes us a people?” she asked. At the end of the 17-minute performance, it was impossible not to leave invigorated with a boost of national pride. The main exhibit, The Story of We the People, draws visitors in with a wealth of informative displays, films, photographs and hands-on activities about defining moments in America’s constitutional history. There are also interesting artifacts, including Colonial-era currency and a toothbrush and wig curler from the late 1700s. Other exhibit highlights include the American National Tree, a towering display of touch screens that introduces visitors to 100 individuals who have shaped the Constitution. Nearby, a section of a wall is covered in Postit notes with visitors’ answers to the question: “If you were drafting a 28th amendment, what would you add or change?” Free college was a popular response. History Comes Alive In Signers’ Hall, visitors pose for photos as they walk among life-size bronze statues of the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution in 1787 and the three dissenters. A touch-screen display allows visitors to use their fingers to add a signature and receive an “I signed the Constitution” certificate via e-mail. To view original documents of freedom, visitors can head to the George H.W. Bush Gallery. On display here is one of 12 surviving copies of the Bill of Rights, a first-edition stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence and a rare copy of the first public printing of the U.S. Constitution. Peering at the glass-protected documents provided a final this-is-really- cool moment that textbooks can’t deliver. To learn more, call (215) 409-6600 or visit constitutioncenter.org. For information about Philadelphia, go to visitphilly.com.
Published by AAA South Jersey. View All Articles.