George Washington

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New Revolutionary War Museum Aims To Illuminate The Past

April 18, 2017

Monuments, memorials and museums help us remember and learn about the important events of our history. We visit the 9/11 memorial and museum in New York City, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the fields of Gettysburg, and the book depository in Dallas to live in the moments where history changed forever.

These museums and memorials preserve these national epochs in academic amber for future generations to glean the lessons of the past. This is why accurate representation and information is so essential at these sites — their exhibits become the dominant truth for millions of people.

The new Museum of The American Revolution will open on April 19 in Philadelphia, and aims to be the preeminent Revolutionary War learning experiences for generations to come.  

The Museum, located in the heart of where our constitution and nation were forged, will not shy away from many of the uncouth actions taken by both the British and Americans during the war.

“We tend to think there was a script we were all speaking from, but the reality was messy,” R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president for collections, exhibitions and programming, told the New York Times last week. “I guess we might be considered a little bit critical of originalism in that sense.”

While the museum does feature depictions of events such as Washington crossing the Delaware, it also reminds visitors that African-American slaves fought as both Loyalists and Patriots in exchange for promises of their freedom (some of which were not upheld), and how some Native American tribes struggled with the decision of whether to join the revolution. Stephenson told the Times that he calls the exhibits that depict the marginalized people of the Revolution “'wait just a damn minute' panels.”

Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn joined Boston Public Radio Tuesday to discuss the Museum of The American Revolution and how influential the depiction of history in museums and memorials can be.

Click the audio player above to listen to Nancy Koehn's interview with Boston Public Radio.

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