One of my favorite site in Independence Park (Tobey says “yawn”) is the (free) Portrait Gallery. Housed in the former Second Bank of the United States (designed to look like the Parthenon in Athens), it has over 150 portraits of Revolution-era military officers, politicians, scientists, explorers – all the people that show up in history books.
The core of the collection comes from the museum of Philadelphia painter, Charles Willson Peale. In addition to the portraits, you can also see one of the few surviving specimens from the museum – this Bald Eagle (originally a Peale family pet).
As a follower of the enlightenment philosophers and friend of the founding fathers, Peale believed that educating the American public and increasing their understanding of the natural world would cultivate a more enlightened citizenry and advance America’s prestige around the world. He was assisted by his family (he had 18 children, all named after famous artists or scientists), including Rembrandt, Rubens, Benjamin Franklin, Titian and Angelica Kauffman. For a time, his museum was housed on the second floor of Independence Hall.
Tobey says: Yawn…
Field Trips: Independence Park offers several great, inexpensive field trip opportunities – classes on Ben Franklin, The Underground Railroad, Symbolism of the Liberty Bell and Archaeology. However, they do not include other areas of the park, so you are on your own if you want to explore these areas. This is a great stop by for kids who are studying American Revolution history and want to put faces to the names they read about.
Teachers: The park also offers classes for teachers. I’ve taken several of these for class/field trip ideas . During one class we were allowed to climb the clock tower at Independence Hall. Another class discussed George Washington’s slaves and colonial cooking.