Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

The weather is getting warmer and the summer is coming soon, I hope to see more places this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Any who, continuing on with my previous adventures in Philly…

Benjamin Franklin Museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5. The museum is part of Franklin Court, which was Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia residence from 1763 until his death. Franklin Court contains the “Fragments of Franklin Court” exhibit, a Printing Office and the courtyard, which all are accessible to visitors. (My one-tracked mind latched onto to the museum as the main event, so I was unaware about the additional exhibit and the printing office. I suppose they are also part of the reason as to the small crowds when I visited.) The museum is accessible by car and public transportation. There is no onsite parking for those who intend to drive, but there are various parking lots within a mile of the museum. For those who wish to use public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station or 5th Street Station (they’re about equidistant from the museum) and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. Visitors can see the other attractions at Franklin Court if they have time, or walk a little further to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If it’s too much history for one day, then stroll around the corner to the museum at Chemical Heritage Foundation (which I highly enjoyed).

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located underground, beneath Franklin Court. The museum is one floor and contains five exhibits exploring the different aspects of Franklin’s life. Right at the start of the museum, visitors can find Skugg the squirrel, who is a sort of scavenger type-like guide for visitors; he can be found sporadically throughout the museum, pointing out fun tidbits. The first exhibit is “Ardent and Dutiful”, which focuses on Franklin’s personal life. Visitors can learn about his family, his friends, his hobbies and even his household expenses. Franklin suffered from gout, due to excessive eating of red meat and drinking wine, hence he wrote a story about a conversation he would have with his personified gout; visitors can view a clip of the story at this exhibit.

The next exhibit is “Ambitious and Rebellious”, which focuses on Franklin’s life as a printer. Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, oftentimes contributing pieces to the newspaper under various alias, and made it one of the most successful newspapers during his time. The exhibit contains some of the tools that are needed for printing. Following is “Motivated to Improve”. This exhibit highlights various inventions and ideas that came about because of Franklin, such as bifocals, the “Franklin Stove”, universities, lending libraries and home deliveries by the postal system.

Most people have heard the story of Franklin flying a kite with a key during a thunderstorm, thereby discovering electricity. “Curious and Full of Wonder” focuses  on his other experiments with electricity and science, in general. The last exhibit is “Strategic and Persuasive”, which showcases Franklin’s time as a diplomat. Included in the exhibit is the “Join or Die” cartoon used to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. The museum ends with a small segment on Franklin’s efforts to write an autobiography that he never finished.

My travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but the timing will vary from person to person. Admission to the museum is reasonable for the amount of material that is on display. Adults and children will both enjoy a visit as there is enough information to keep the adults busy and equally as much for children to touch and interact with, thus it’s a good place to bring the whole family for a visit. If you’re visiting Philadelphia, it is only appropriate to take some time to learn about Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and “The First American”, and a great place to start is at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

 Life’s been a bit hectic lately, so I’ve been busy attending to it, and neglecting this a bit, but now I’m back… Considering that I’ve lived in NYC all my life, and that Philadelphia is only 2 hours away, it’s a pity that I’ve never been there until last summer when I took a spontaneous trip to Philadelphia. Philly has so many things that I want to see, but on the top of my list is one that is less well-known…

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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The Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm; on the first Friday of the month, from March to December, the museum is open from 10am to 8pm. (I think they’ve changed the hours since I went as I distinctly remember them not being on open on the weekend, which is why I went on a Friday.) Admission to the museum is free, but they  have a suggested donation of $5. The museum is accessible by both car and public transportation. Should you decide to drive, which you may have to if you’re coming from out of state, note that the museum doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are plenty of parking garages within a mile. Public transportation to the museum is pretty simple if you are already in Philly: take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. There are plenty of other things to do around the area, such as the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which is right by the museum, and if you walk a little further, you’ll be at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

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The Chemical Heritage Foundation is an institution that promotes and preserves the understanding of the history of science; it consists of a library, museum, archive, research center and conference center. The Museum at CHF is a rather small museum within the Foundation, but is comprised of 4 exhibits, 3 of which are permanent and 1 is a rotating exhibit. The main exhibit “Making Modernity” provides an overview of how chemistry is part of everyday life. “Making Modernity” is broken into 11 different sections that focus on different aspects of chemistry. The first section is  about the origins of chemistry and what people considered as chemistry. The next section is “Materials for the Masses”, which shows the contributions chemistry has made to society, such as synthetic fibers and plastics. “Tools for the Task” focuses on the tools used in chemistry, such as beakers, balances and other specialized glassware.

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The largest section is “Empowering Technologies”, which focuses on how chemistry helped overcome the limits of time, space and speed through the developments of batteries, light bulbs and computer chips, respectively. There are 4 smaller sections in the middle of the room that highlight the more sophisticated tools, such as microscopes, spectrometers and various types of chemical detectors. Also in the middle of the room is a video column that has an interactive panel and a video on the periodic table.

On the second floor are the last two sections of the exhibit, “Becoming a Chemist” and “Chemists and the Wider World”. “Becoming a Chemist” contains a variety of notes and books related to the field. The section also contains some games and lab kits that were available to children. “Chemists and the Wider World” focuses on how chemistry is portrayed in the arts, how chemistry became a more unified field with the introduction of chemical symbols so that all scientists know that C stands for carbon or O for oxygen, how chemistry has impacted the world-both the good and the bad, and how chemistry continues to evolve.

The rotating exhibit that was on display when I visited was “Science at Play”, which was on view from October 2015 to September 2016. The exhibit highlighted the various toys and kits that came about to encourage kids to explore science. Chemistry kits and miniature laboratories came about in the early 1900s and became mass produced consumer goods. Early kits predominantly featured boys on the covers, but as more females became involved in the sciences, girls started appearing on the covers, too. The exhibit also contains other toys that came about due to science, such as the View-Master (I had one way back when, I adored the thing.)

The museum has two other exhibits,  “Transmutation: Alchemy in Art” and “The Whole of Nature and the Mirror of Art”. Unfortunately, I missed these two exhibits as they aren’t directly connected to the main exhibit, so I didn’t even know there is more to see. (If you decide to visit, remember to look out for these two, they are elusive.)

My travel buddy and I spent about an hour at the museum, but as always others can spend more or less time depending on their interest levels. (My buddy took about half the time that I did, so the time allotted is just an estimate.) Admission to the museum is free, so it’s a great place to drop by, take a look and learn a little chemistry. The museum is more suitable for adults and older children as there is plenty of reading involved, and the museum isn’t really interactive so it may not keep younger kids interested for long. When people think of chemistry, they think of a laboratory with flames and boiling liquid, but that’s not all it is,  just visit the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation and find out how chemistry is actually a part of the everyday.