Reimagining Benjamin Franklin’s Home for the Next Generation (Fall 2013 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Author: Carol Hutchinson

11/14/2013 - The Princess phones are gone, replaced by computer animation and interactive exhibits. A dark ramp is history, replaced with a well-lighted, welcoming staircase and modern glass. Original objects are displayed, helping to bring a great man to life. And the revamped and reimagined Benjamin Franklin Museum is receiving visitors in Philadelphia.

Built for the nation’s bicentennial more than three decades ago, the underground museum had fallen into disrepair in recent years. It was once considered to be cutting edge: Visitors could listen to recordings of the “Founding Fathers” on the phones. Lately, however, it had become difficult to find one that worked. Other exhibits were painfully outdated as well. The building at Franklin Court, the former site of the statesman’s 18th-century home, was plagued by leaks.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has a long record of supporting Philadelphia’s historical and cultural attractions, including the Liberty Bell Pavilion, the National Constitution Center, the Independence Visitor Center, and the Barnes Foundation museum.

So Pew worked with philanthropist H.F. Lenfest, the William Penn Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as the city, state, and federal governments, on a three-year effort to restore the Franklin museum which reopened at the end of the summer. Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron, for one, was pleased with the result, writing, “Just as the experts predicted, everything is different. But different is also better.”

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