On our last day in Philadelphia, we made the attempt to fit in as many museums and sites as we can. We did pretty well.
Our first stop of the day was Independence Hall. We got up early so we could get free tickets when the booth opened for the day. I snagged the tickets. Curiously,they said to go through security an hour before our ticket time. Apparently, the security lines can get backed up. Fortunately, this was not the case. We had to wander around the secured area for Independence Hall until our tour time. There are some buildings there that don’t require a ticket. We wandered into a building that had original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Also, they had the silver inkstand used to sign the documents. So it was a neat sidetour.
The gem really was the tour of Independence Hall. We got to see the Assembly Room. It’s the room where it happened. No seriously. It’s a decent sized room for about 30 people. There’s even the famous chair of the rising/setting sun that Benjamin Franklin quipped about: “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I… know that it is a rising…sun.” Hope it is still so.
We also got a tour upstairs to see the Long Gallery with some amazing British era maps and some historic rooms. But really, the Assembly Room was the bee’s knees. After the tour, we took a brief tour of the Congress Building, where the House and Senate first met. Again, it was pretty neat to be in such historic places. As an added boon, I saw the reproduction of the painting of Marie Antoinette by Vigee de la Brun!
We briefly checked out an exhibit about Thomas Jefferson and Native Americans. He apparently had attempted to preserve some tribes’ languages, which is actually a point in his favor for once. (Yeah, not on the Jefferson train much). We also saw the first Supreme Court as well.
Then I stumbled upon a map that told us that we could visit Edgar Allan Poe’s house. Naturally, we had to go see it. We learned quickly that getting there was a bit more challenging since it involved going under the highway. They really don’t make it easy to get through it. Anyway, we managed to get to the house and it was magnificent. It’s not very big but well worth the trip. We got there just in time since they close for lunch. We had a whirlwind tour of the house, wandering in rooms. They aren’t furnished but it was neat to see the various places that Poe had lived part of his life. We also checked out the creepy basement. The best thing was a little furnished room off to the side where there were books and even CDs. We put on a recitation of the Raven and listened to the entire thing sitting in this Victorian style room. So neat!
After a spot of lunch, we checked out the Constitution Center nearby. I was quite glad to see the room of bronze statues of the signing of the Constitution. I got my picture with Hamilton. It was silly good fun. But then we were herded into a film about freedom, liberty and whatnot. Propaganda at it’s finest. Thankfully the rest of the museum was not so over the top. The exhibits talked about the Trail of Tears, the KKK, and other not so great things in our history. Sadly, it appears these events are not in our history as much as we’d like to believe. We did play a presidential trivia game where I somehow won against my US history wiz husband. Very strange. It was an interesting museum but I wouldn’t feel the need to go back. We did take a brief turnaround the Presidential exhibition that walked through the process of running for president. I did appreciate seeing some of the wondrous Convention knickknacks and buttons. We even got to sit at a recreation of the Oval Office and look very presidential (or not!).
Our final site was the famous Mutter museum. I had read about it in a book called Severed. Yes, it’s a book about severed heads. Highly recommend it! The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia collects body parts and reproductions of body parts. It’s very old timey in look with wooden cases and exhibits. But you’ll need a strong stomach. I loved the wall of skulls where you can even adopt one (Great fundraising pitch! No seriously.)
They also have two shrunken heads of display; one is the real deal by the tribe that actually undertook the practice; the other was a copy by another tribe but it was still human. One of the weird things I learned in grad school is how to tell a real human shrunken head from a copy made from a monkey or another animal. Check the ear structure. Apparently, it’s hard to fake a human ear. There’s your important piece of knowledge! Grotesque but fascinating. They had a series of skeletons where you could listen to audio about how scientists learn to read skeletons, which was very cool. There were lots of organs, real or plaster casts, in jars. There were various bones or things found in people’s bodies. It got to be a little overwhelming. But these places are real treasures because so much is learned. Seriously, it’s not an easy museum to go to so have some caution. I got a little tired of seeing diseased body parts. But it’s worth checking out if you are into the human body.
That’s all for now!