On Wednesday, April 19, Philadelphia unveiled a brand new museum: The Museum of the American Revolution (MOAR). Over 100 years in the making, the debut of this highly anticipated museum is a revolution in itself.
All photos and video by Amy Dennis
The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia
The opening ceremonies in Center City, Philadelphia featured appearances from Former Vice President Joe Biden, Historian and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author David McCullough and musical guest Sydney James Harcourt from the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” among other esteemed guests.
The Opening Ceremonies began at 8 a.m. with an interfaith service and ceremonial wreath-laying in Philadelphia’s Washington Square.
Not only is Washington Square a prime location because it sits just blocks away from the museum, the park is also deeply rooted in American history.
Washington Square is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument built in honor of soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War. According to Cynthia McCleod, Superintendent of Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park, the monument is “One of the most sacred sites in the city [of Philadelphia].”
But, it was not just American soldier’s blood that was shed. According to Michael Quinn, President and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution, during the 18th century, the land that is now Washington Square served as a burial ground for both Native Americans and African Americans in Philadelphia.
The ceremony paid homage to those lives lost through prayer, spoken word and song. In closing, General John P. Jumper, chairman of the Museum of the American Revolution and CPT Andrew J. Talone, Commander of the Commander in Chief’s Guard (The Old Guard) placed a ceremonial wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier to conclude the ceremony in Washington Square.
St. Thomas African American gospel choir performance
The Building Where It Happened
At 9 a.m., the ceremonies continued to Independence Hall. Each ceremony bringing the crowd closer to the museum itself.
But like the city of Philadelphia itself, Independence Hall has seen its share of violence, defeat and uncertainty. When British troops captured Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, they took over Independence Hall, making it a prison for American soldiers. The Museum of the American Revolution succeeds at bringing these and other stories to life, through its collection of artifacts and interactive exhibits.
Master of Ceremonies Vai Sikahema, from NBC 10 introduced former and current governors from eight of the Thirteen Original Colonies, who each gave a toast to their respective states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Each toast ended with a shout of “Huzzah!” which sounds kind of silly and ridiculous in today’s time but was actually a very common cheer during the Revolutionary War.
Governors present included Former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, Former Delaware Governor Michael Castle and Former New Jersey Governor James Florio, among others.
After the speeches, students from St. Mary’s Interparochial School in Philadelphia participated in creating a “living flag” as a camera drone flew overhead to capture an aerial photo of the flag.
A New Gem
At 10:30 a.m., the students of St. Mary’s Interparochial School led a final procession to the Museum of the American Revolution on Philadelphia’s 3rd Street. There, a ceremonial ribbon cutting would take place and the museum would welcome its very first guests.
The final ceremony began with a singing of The Star Spangled Banner led by Jamez McCorkle of the Curtis Institute of Music. Following McCorkle’s performance, Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney spoke, calling the museum “an exciting new addition to the city.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter followed Kenney in giving opening remarks about the museum.
Afterward, Sydney James Harcourt of Hamilton accompanied by the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts performed “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “The Room Where It Happens” from Hamilton. Additional speakers NPR Political Commentator Cokie Roberts, Harvard University Professor Dr. Vincent Brown and Museum Chairman General John P. Jumper, along with Former Vice President Joe Biden all joined in celebrating the Museum of the American Revolution with opening remarks.
A final musical performance by the Philadelphia Boys Choir led to the official dedication and ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Museum of the American Revolution.
All original photos and video taken by Amy Dennis