On behalf of the National Park Service, it is my pleasure to present on the following web pages the exhibit text and images for the new Liberty Bell Center, currently under construction in Independence National Historical Park (INHP) in Philadelphia, PA.
Visitors will approach the new building by way of an outdoor area interpreting and commemorating the site of the property that was once at 190 High Street, used by Presidents Washington and Adams when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. Then, after entering the building from beneath a sheltered outdoor gathering area, they can view the building’s exhibits, displayed on the following web pages. Finally, visitors will see the Bell itself in its own space, positioned against a large window offering an oblique view of Independence Hall silhouetted against the sky.
The exhibit you are about to explore is presented in the order by which visitors to the building will experience it. It tells a chronological story about the Liberty Bell (the Bell):
- its important history as a relic of the American Revolution
- its emergence in the middle third of the 19th century as a powerful symbol for the abolition movement, including its enduring connection to efforts to end slavery and subsequently to extend the ideals of liberty to other disenfranchised groups especially the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements.
- its growth as an international symbol of freedom and human rights.
As you will see, two broad themes are threaded throughout: the Bell as one of this nation’s "sacred relics", and as a symbol of the ongoing and incomplete struggle to extend the benefits of liberty to all.
The entrance to the new Liberty Bell Center will be located in the vicinity of what was the rear of the property at 190 High Street, used by Presidents Washington and Adams when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. While important as the nation’s first presidential residence, the Presidents' House is also noteworthy as a place where George Washington’s slaves lived and worked while he was serving as the nation’s first president, and where his successor, John Adams, a vigorous opponent of slavery, managed the same household without slaves.
The exhibit has been developed through close work with prominent local as well as nationally recognized historians. We believe it will be an exciting and provocative exhibit for the almost two million visitors who come to INHP to see the Bell each year.
Please note as you look at the images that the exhibit to be installed within the new building will consist of a series of large panels ranging in size from 6.5 feet high by 7 feet wide to 12.5 feet high by 13.5 feet wide. Each panel will have dominant and supporting images, a design format that is not conveyed by the format that is most suitable for these web pages, in which each of the exhibit’s images is given equal weight.
In addition to the presentation of the exhibits to be located inside the new Liberty Bell Center on the web pages that follow, you will also find a summary of the objectives we have established to date for interpreting and commemorating the site of the 190 High Street property and the rich stories associated with it. This document also includes background information on the history of the site and its stories.
While the Liberty Bell exhibit is substantially complete, we value your thoughts about the final product. You will find a link at the end of the exhibit pages should you wish to share your opinion.
Thank you for your interest in Independence National Historical Park. I hope you will visit the park, especially our new Liberty Bell Center when it is completed, to see the finished exhibit.
Mary A. Bomar