Ever want to see an ex-president’s hair? Philly museums host special exhibits for DNC

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website, the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website, The Trentonian‘s website, The Mercury‘s website, The Times Herald‘s website and The Reporter‘s website.
The Liberty Bell Center is displaying a history on political conventions during the Democratic National Convention for visitors and delegates. (Candice Monhollan)
The Liberty Bell Center is displaying a history on political conventions during the Democratic National Convention for visitors and delegates. (Candice Monhollan)

PHILADELPHIA — As delegates flood in the City of Brotherly Love, many museums in Philadelphia are hosting special exhibits, hours or having special admission fees during the four-day Democratic National Convention.

Exhibits don’t get more unique – or gross, depending on how a person may view it – than “Presidential Archives” at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

The exhibit features presidential letters, fossils and … hair. Actual locks of hair from the nation’s earliest presidents.

Peter Arrell Browne, a Philadelphia attorney and naturalist who lived during the latter half of the mid-18th century to the first half of the 19th century, collected albums-worth of human and animal hair.

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The Academy is displaying a small portion of the collection with locks of hair from five presidents of different political parties, a letter from Theodore Roosevelt and fossils which once belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

“It may seem like an odd hobby today, but it was quite common for people to keep hair clippings from their loved ones in lockets, brooches, rings and pins in Victorian times,” said Robert Peck, Academy Senior Fellow.

Right in the birthplace of America where Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are located, an exhibition on the history of political conventions is housed in the Liberty Bell Center at 6th and Market streets.

PoliticalFest tickets for the center are $15 for adults and $5 for children and includes the full National Constitution Center experience, the main exhibits and feature exhibits. Delegates and their guests are free when they present their credentials.

Fort Mifflin, the fort that is known for withstanding the greatest bombardment of the American Revolution, is extending its public hours for the visiting delegates.

Typically, the fort is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but for the DNC, it will be open July 25 and 26, along with its regular Wednesday through Sunday hours, and is also taking $1 off admission fees to anyone who presents their delegate credentials.

“Fort Mifflin is a case study in perseverance and steadfast service to the country, so it is an especially fitting place for delegates to visit,” said Beth Beatty, executive director at the fort.

Eastern State Penitentiary, which looms over Fairmount Avenue near the Philadelphia Art Museum, has its own exhibit during the event called “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration.”

“There’s a big focus on prison reform this election … (and) this is the first major museum exhibit to tackle this subject matter,” said Ellen Feist, Eastern State’s director of Marketing and Communications. “It examines the policies, laws, sentencing trends and policing practices that have put so many more citizens behind bars, a vastly disproportionate number them black and Latino.”

The exhibit features video interviews with people who are a part of the criminal justice system and interactive questionnaires.

“The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, by far, with 2.2 million citizens in prison or jail and yet we have no national prison museum,” said Sean Kelley, senior vice president at Eastern State, in a release. “Many Americans see criminal justice reform as the civil rights challenge of this generation. It’s time to address this subject with honesty and critical thinking and there’s no better place to do so than Eastern State Penitentiary.”

Just across the Delaware River in Camden, the Battleship New Jersey will be hosting its own special events for DNC groups through Thursday.

Visitors to the city can also see America’s most decorated battleship with a special group package for guided Fire Power tours at a lower rate of $19.95 per adult and $15 per veteran or seniors. Interested groups are asked to contact the Battleship New Jersey at groups@battleshipnewjersey.org.

More museums in Philadelphia may have special exhibits. Visit the official websites to find out more information.


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