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Source: NPS
Date: October 9, 2002
Byline: Phil Sheridan, 215-597-0060

National Park Service News Release: Liberty Bell Center Exhibit Preview Now on Independence National Historical Park Website

The final version of the Liberty Bell Center exhibit is now available to the public on the Independence National Historical Park (INHP) website at www.nps.gov/inde. Recent public interest in the Liberty Bell Center exhibit focussed on concerns that the existence of slavery at the site would not be adequately recognized, and that its interpretation would not be adequately interwoven with that of the Liberty Bell.

The National Park Service consulted with both local and nationally recognized historians, as well as community representatives. On May 13, 2002, National Park Service officials met with an interested group of Philadelphia area scholars led by Professor Randall Miller of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. The group explored ways to interpret and interweave the stories of the Liberty Bell and of the slavery that existed in George Washington's household at 190 High Street.

That initial meeting with the historians explored themes that would extend throughout the exhibit. It affirmed the exhibit's overall three-part structure:

Liberty Bell Center Exhibits

The meeting confirmed the need to weave two broad themes throughout: the Liberty 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. With these themes, the historians recognized the ongoing relationship between freedom and "unfreedom," as well as the conflict between racism and the ideals of liberty.

These themes were incorporated into a revised exhibit for the Liberty Bell Center. It was reviewed by a group of nationally recognized historians, including Spencer Crew, Executive Director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Fath Ruffin of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; James Horton of George Washington University, Eric Foner of Columbia University and Charles Blockson of Temple University. The comments and suggestions of these reviewers have been incorporated into the text and images of the final exhibit, which has been made available to the public on the web. The final exhibit presents the Bell as a symbol of an ongoing struggle for liberty rather than as a symbol of liberty attained.

The redesign has changed the schedule for completion of the exhibits in the Liberty Bell Center. As a result, the Liberty Bell will move to its new home in fall, 2003. The National Park Service will now focus attention on the interpretation and design for the site at 190 High Street (now Market Street) referred to as the Morris Mansion or the President's House. In March 2003 park officials will report to the House Appropriations Committee how they plan to "appropriately commemorate" the slavery that existed there when George Washington was President.

 

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