In our long, long drives through 32 states and counting, we’ve seen a version of Jamestown, Civil War battlefields, the National World War II Museum, and memorials honoring the individual casualties from America’s last 105 years’ worth of wars or so. We still have a few official war museums to cross off, which we expect will follow the pattern — lots of artifacts from the era, probably some writing samples, and of course plenty of photos where applicable.
Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution features 18,000 square feet of exhibits covering the trials and tumults of our nation’s infancy, but begins with a severe disadvantage: 240 years ago, no one thought to take photos, or bothered to invent the camera in a timely manner. If a nation rises but no one Instagrammed it, is it still free?
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.
We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…
Although many of its exhibits reach back to the 1700s, the museum itself has only been around since April 2017. It’s a relative babe compared to historically pedigreed neighbors such as Independence Hall or Christ Church Burial Ground. Hopefully those other establishments’ keepers are nicer to the MAR than France and Spain were to America when it was still on training wheels. Either way, the museum boasts antiques and relics we’d never seen before, a few of which once knew the touch of some of the Founding Fathers themselves.
(That very broadside originally belonged to David Rittenhouse, an astronomer, inventor, philosopher, and at one point Treasurer of Pennsylvania. Fans of NBC’s Timeless may recall one episode featured an evil version of him played by Armin Shimerman.)
The museum’s most prized possession is one of the two tents used by General George Washington himself during the war. One does not simply walk into Washington’s tent, or within twenty feet of it. The tent receives its own special presentation at select times throughout the day. Visitors may line up for timed lines, a short presentation, and the dramatic unveiling of the tent behind security glass. It’s old, it’s prestigious, it’s one of those rare accommodations about which one can actually brag, “George Washington Slept Here”.
No photos are allowed during the tent show, but the museum’s gift shop features souvenirs with preprinted professional pics for purchase and memories.
For lack of 18th-century paparazzi, the Museum’s primary storytelling device is creative statuary, some of which are from the same Brooklyn studio that brought us Signers’ Hall at the Constitution Center. Once again through the hands of StudioEIS, history comes alive and it’s capable of emotive expressions.
(As thanks for their contributions, future President Washington granted them a latitude of 6 million independent acres. Over the ages, the State of New York curtailed that to *checks notes* uh, thirty-two.)
To be continued!
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