Thursday, May 17, 2018

National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

I left it up to Don and Ashley to decide how we should spend Mother's Day this year. They came up with some ideas that would have been lovely only two days earlier -- before the cold front hit New Jersey bringing with it rain. Ideas included going for a family bike ride (something we don't do often enough) to wandering around Grounds for Sculpture (with everyone else and their mother, literally). With temperatures in the low 60s and rain, being outside did not seem appealing. I stepped in and offered an alternative -- the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a place that had been on our wish list especially since learning about their Alexander Hamilton exhibit.

I took a chance and looked at the library website to see if they had museum passes available -- they did, meaning we could go for free. Unfortunately it meant a late start since the library did not open until 12:30 and we still wanted to go to 5 PM church, and it takes us an hour each way to go to Philadelphia. For free we could rush through the museum a bit.

For us the highlight of the museum was Signer's Hall in the George H.W. Bush Hall. All 42 signers of the Constitution, which took place a few hundred feet away in Independence Hall September 17, 1787, are represented by a life-size  bronze statue you can pose with. Ashley posed with Alexander Hamilton. 

Don posed with his favorite politician of the day (Ben Franklin). Mine, Thomas Jefferson, was in France at the time, therefore he does not have a statue.

Ashley also posed with James Madison, at 5'2 the shortest of the delegates. Standing only a few feet away from George Washington, it drove home the point that Washington was really tall, especially in that time.

Love this view of Independence Hall from the National Constitution Center.

The rest of the museum did not speak to us. The Hamilton exhibit they touted is basically a few artifacts, including a signed Hamilton: the musical playbill (missing Lin Manuel Miranda's autograph, alas), and a lock of Hamilton's hair snipped by his wife, Elizabeth Hamilton, the day he was killed. The neatest part was probably a representation in the floor of just how close Hamilton and Aaron Burr stood to each other (only 10 paces apart) on that fateful day. The exhibit on a whole was crammed into the lobby next to the education room. It was clearly designed to capitalize on the musical's fame. You could say it worked in our case, but we had free tickets and did not spend any money in the gift shop. We even scored free parking.

The show they encourage you see before starting basically repeated everything that was on Ashley's most recent history test (which we helped her study for). One woman did a lot of talking and moved around the room on cue while some images were shown. If you need a brush up on the history of the Constitution, it is worth the 30 minutes. We could have put that time to better use.

Upstairs is a huge round room filled with artifacts showing how important the Constitution is to us still. It covers history up to 2008 when Barack Obama was sworn in. There is a space for future growth, so maybe there will be an addition in another decade or two. It was almost too overwhelming. Some neat tidbits such as when corporations were recognized as people (late 18th century), and lots of artifacts such as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's judicial robe. The point driven home is that what our Founding Fathers did was radically new and we should be proud it has hung on this long. May our country thrive and be a leader.

We are glad we went, but at $14.50 for an adult ticket ($11 for teenagers), I can't recommend the museum. Hopefully lots of other people found it more enjoyable than we did.

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