Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic

Exhibition Info
Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building
Curated by
Page Talbott, PhD, Stacey Swigart, and Melissa Clemmer, Drexel University Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships
An Exhibition of the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University

Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic is a large, interactive display of over 600 authentic objects, telling the story of Philadelphia’s city history collection. Inspiring pride in our great city, this major exhibition reflects 350 years of Philly history.

The exhibition highlights the strengths of the Atwater Kent Collection (former Philadelphia History Museum), including material representing the Atwater Kent Museum’s earliest acquisitions, eclectic collections it absorbed, national celebrations, development of the city and civic history, Philly sports, salvaged material and relics, manufacturing and retail, and art and music.  

The Collection grew over 80 years to encompass an array of Philadelphia stories: objects reflect the city’s diverse residents and their contributions over three centuries. Along with 600+ artifacts, the exhibition includes hundreds more historical images as well as multimedia and hands-on elements.  

Related Programming

Philadelphia Revealed is an exhibition, a podcast, and a platform for anyone to add their story to Philadelphia history. Through an interactive game, facilitated by First Person Arts, visitors can find and add their own stories to the archives. They can hear other Philadelphians’ stories through Philadelphia Revealed: The Podcast, produced by WHYY. Hosted by Jamie Brunson of First Person Arts, each episode features a new storyteller highlighting an object from the exhibition and sharing their own story inspired by it. Public programs will enable further interaction. Philadelphia history is still being told; Philadelphia Revealed aims to find out what these objects mean to all of us. 

Featured Image: Industrial Philadelphia – The Workshop of the World, oil on canvas by Morris Berd (1914–2007), 1952 (Gift of Stern’s Department Stores; acquired Gimbels, 90.81.1). 

Watercolor depiction of the Lazaretto Quarantine in Tinicum Township, Delco.
The Lazaretto Quarantine [Tinicum Township, Delaware County], watercolor, c. 1860 (Museum Purchase, 43.7.10).
Oil on canvas painting featuring buildings in industrial Philadelphia.
Industrial Philadelphia – The Workshop of the World, oil on canvas by Morris Berd (1914–2007), 1952 (Gift of Stern’s Department Stores; acquired Gimbels, 90.81.1).
Handmade soft cloth doll in a mauve dress suit.
Handmade Soft Cloth Doll, fabric, made by Dorothy Wendell Heizer (1881–1973) (PAFA alum), c. 1930 (Gift of Wurts House Foundation, 90.36.162).
Oil on canvas painting of Stephen Smith.
Portrait of Stephen Smith, oil on canvas by James Stidum/Stedom, c. 1840 (From Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection [Gift of Henrietta Clemens Mousserone], HSP.1931.4).
Up close view of the keys of a pianoforte.
Pianoforte (earliest dated piano made in America), ebony, ivory, wire, mahogany, made by Charles Albrecht (1759/60–1848), Philadelphia, 1789 (From Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection [Source Unknown], HSP.X-37).
Entry form for PAFA 64th Annual Exhibition.
Entry Form for PAFA 64th Annual Exhibition (from Alexander Stirling Calder), paper, 1894-95 (Museum Purchase,
Woven rug sample made of wool and wood.
Woven (Navajo) Rug Sample, wool (likely from Germantown) and wood, c. 1890 (Gift of Daniel Blain Jr.,
Cathedral-Style Tabletop Wood-Cased Radio
Cathedral-Style Tabletop Wood-Cased Radio (Model 84), wood, electronics, etc., made by Atwater Kent Manufacturing Co., Philadelphia, 1932 (Gift of Elaine Shapiro and the Estate of Roy Shapiro, 14.1.18).
Silver trophy bowl of United Bowmen with founders/members' names, including Franklin and Titan R. Peale, and Thomas Sully.
Trophy Bowl of United Bowmen (with founders/members’ names, including Franklin and Titian R. Peale, and Thomas Sully), silver, made by Thomas Fletcher, Philadelphia, c. 1830 (From Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection [Gift of United Bowmen of Philadelphia], HSP.X-181).
Straw horse hat.
Horse Hat: PA SPCA, straw, c. 1950 (Gift of Pennsylvania SPCA, 87.9.353).

Exhibition Support

Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic is made possible thanks to the following generous supporters.

Lead support provided by The Richard C. von Hess Foundation. Major support is provided by Anonymous, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Wyncote Foundation, Connelly Foundation, and Syde Hurdus Foundation. Additional support is provided by donors to Drexel University Collections and Exhibitions.  

Philadelphia Revealed: The Podcast and additional programming—Reshaping Historical Narratives through the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University, in collaboration with WHYY and First Person Arts—has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.