$18 Million Centennial Project Coming to Independence National Historical Park

Contact: Cindy Jobbins, 215.575.4812, Jane Cowley, Independence National Historic Park, 215.597.0060


Philadelphia, PA - 01/13/2009 - “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” So spoke our famous founding father, Benjamin Franklin. The renovated Benjamin Franklin Underground Museum in Franklin Court has moved one step closer to reality. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar today announced $27 million in National Park Centennial Challenge Projects benefitting NPS sites in nine states, including Independence National Historical Park (INHP). In this 2.5-year renovation project, we will replace outdated exhibits in the Underground Museum that are over 30 years old with state of the art technology to put Franklin Court on par with leading biographical museums around the world. Our modernized facilities will teach visitors about Benjamin Franklin’s accomplishments, life, and enduring legacy, and building maintenance updates will ensure the durability of these exhibits.

Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod expressed her gratitude that this project is now able to move forward. “As one of our most famous and favorite historic Philadelphians, Franklin deserves a museum commensurate with his enormous contribution to our country. This project will help bring a better knowledge of Franklin, his life and legacy, to more visitors from around the region, around the nation, and around the world.”

National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar said, “In these economic times, creative efforts like the Centennial Challenge provide a great return on investment for both the American taxpayer and the philanthropic community. Where else can you be guaranteed to double your money?”

Congress approved $10.5 million for Centennial Challenge projects and programs for the current fiscal year and park partners brought another $16.5 million for a total of $27 million in projects and programs at nine national park units in nine states and the District of Columbia.

In March 2007, The Pew Charitable Trusts announced a $6 million challenge grant for the complete redevelopment of the underground museum at Franklin Court, including new interpretive exhibits. In making this grant, Pew hoped that the President's Centennial Challenge would provide $6 million in matching federal funds for this important project honoring Benjamin Franklin. An additional $6 million will be contributed by other generous donors, including the William Penn Foundation, Gerry Lenfest and the Knight Foundation to help cover the total costs of this $18 million renovation project.

“We applaud Secretary Kempthorne and the National Park Service for helping this important project move forward,” said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Benjamin Franklin was one of our most fascinating and important Founding Fathers, and one of Philadelphia’s beloved citizens. A dynamic new museum will ensure that residents and visitors will have a place to learn about Franklin’s remarkable life and myriad accomplishments in an engaging and imaginative way. Pew extends our appreciation to all of the other funders who joined us in making this project possible.”

This project addresses the NPS Centennial Initiative Goal of fostering exceptional educational opportunities in our nation’s parks. When Franklin Court opened in 1976 for America's bicentennial celebration, the Underground Museum featured cutting edge technology and innovative exhibits to interpret the life and legacy of Benjamin Franklin as printer, diplomat, patriot, inventor and family man. Over the past 3 decades, millions of visitors have used the Franklin Exchange telephone bank to hear what other famous people had to say about Franklin (both good and bad) or watched him on the World Stage, the most expensive NPS exhibit ever developed at that time. While Robert Venturi’s award winning Ghost Structure House in the courtyard outside may be a timeless design, our 31 year old Underground Museum exhibits are ready for serious renovations. INHP is excited to be able to bring this valuable museum into the 21st century.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, America invites the world to discover the meaning of national parks.

  • What parks mean in people’s lives
  • What inspires people to experience parks
  • What inspires people to become devoted to these special places
The National Park Centennial Initiative provides a framework for the National Park Service to engage the public in its mission. Its goals and strategies will embrace new constituents and gain support from a broad array of public and private partners to ensure America’s national parks continue to thrive into the next 100 years.

Centennial Challenge projects and programs for 2009 are:

Independence National Historical Park, Pennsylvania
Rehabilitate the Ben Franklin Museum at Franklin Court
$12,000,000 – The Pew Charitable Trusts; $6,000,000 – Centennial Challenge

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Remove and control invasive species and restore rare and endangered plants
$600,000 – Maui Invasive Species Committee; $600,000 – Centennial Challenge

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
BioBlitz! Conduct an all-taxa biodiversity inventory
$150,000 – National Geographic Society; $150,000 – Centennial Challenge

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Missouri
Replace the Arch tram operating system
$185,000 – Metro Business Enterprises; $185,000 – Centennial Challenge

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Improve Exit Glacier visitor facilities
$100,000 – Alaska Geographic; $100,000 – Centennial Challenge

National Capital Parks – East, Washington, D.C.
Expand “Bridging the Watershed” environmental education program
$200,000 – Alice Ferguson Foundation; $200,000 – Centennial Challenge

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
Rehabilitate Gillette Ranch building as a visitor center
$2,640,000 – Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority; $2,640,000 – Centennial Challenge

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Add transportation gateway and exhibits in the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark
$50,000 – Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, Inc.; $50,000 – Centennial Challenge

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Conduct molecular all-taxa biodiversity inventory for Yellowstone Lake
$500,000 – Yellowstone Park Foundation; $500,000 – Centennial Challenge

For complete information about the initiative, more details on the 2009 Centennial Challenge projects and programs or to download a Centennial Initiative 2008 Progress Report, please visit www.nps.gov/2016.

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