Catty-cornered from the National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Mall is the new Faith and Liberty Discovery Center on Market Street.
Not only does it break technological barriers, but it breaks some glass ceilings, too. This museum tells the story of Philly’s Founding Fathers’ relationship with faith, the Bible, and how it shaped their framing of the Constitution in the early days of America.
Six years and $60 million later, the American Bible Society is poised to cut a ribbon for the center’s opening May 1. With the goal to “discover the relationship and role of faith in fostering core American values,” it is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city’s historic district.
“There’s an important contribution that faith has made to the American order, and that’s the story we’re telling,” said Patrick Murdock, Vice President of the American Bible Society and Executive Director of the FLDC.
“We wanted to have a certain number of changemakers that present different kinds of liberties. We wanted to make sure a real part of their story was how they were inspired by the scriptures and that we could actually demonstrate that this was really a part of their lives.”
There’s an important contribution that faith has made to the American order, and that’s the story we’re telling.– Patrick Murdock
When a visitor enters the center, they’re handed a “lamp” at the beginning of their tour which they are supposed to use throughout the galleries to engage with the exhibits. Content throughout the galleries is responsive in various ways, allowing visitors to use the lamp to collect and curate content that is designed to inspire them.
“We’re bringing to life the influences of the scriptures and faith on our nation from its founding through today – looking into the lives of people. We call them changemakers,” said Alan R. Crippen II, Chief of Exhibits, Programs and Public Engagement for the FLDC.
“And also historic moments of the history of our country…Events like Katrina, 9/11, Charlottesville, most recently, COVID-19, where people have found hope in the scriptures and through their faith during a time of crisis. There are so many dimensions of the American story and we’re just contributing one.”
Some of those changemakers include pioneers throughout history like John Quincy Adams, Martin Luther King, Jr., William Penn, Dorothy Day and Frank Capra, who are featured in the center’s “Visions” gallery.
The 40,000-sq.-foot attraction will also include an innovation and education center and a 3D immersive theater. Local Projects – the same team that spearheaded New York City’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum – oversaw the building’s state-of-the-art design. Once open, it will employ about 60 people, produce $267,000 in state taxes annually and generate more than $10 million each year to the local economy, according to Philadelphia Business Journal.
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