On Valentine’s Day of 2018, and for our 22nd of 100 adventures, my daughters and I spent the day exploring the remarkable State Museum of Pennsylvania. Established in 1905 and adjacent to the breathtaking and beautiful State Capitol Building, the historical institution is the commonwealth’s official museum located in the state’s important capital city of Harrisburg.
The museum takes visitors through a full range of fascinating regional history, focusing on Pennsylvania’s multi-faceted culture and prominent figures, beginning with prehistoric geology and archeological exhibits and continuing to present time pop culture influences and art showcases.
Four impressive exhibit floors and a full-dome planetarium chronologically organize and display over 3 million items in the museum’s expansive collection.
Interesting and permanent exhibit halls include Life Through Time, Geology, Mammals, Ecology, a Memorial Hall dedicated to William Penn, and Objects of Valor, which features Civil War artifacts.
**Fun Fact: Pennsylvania was named by King Charles II, who took the Penn family name and combined it with the Latin word “silva”, which means “woods”.
The Memorial Hall features an enormous mural, state map, and a monumental bronze statue of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.
**Fun Fact: William Penn’s forward-thinking policy of religious tolerance and acceptance created a diverse religious and ethnic culture in the state of Pennsylvania.
My daughters and I spent most of our time in the noteworthy exhibits of Pennsylvania Icons, Village Square, the Anthropology and Archeology Gallery, and the Transportation and Industry hall.
**Fun Fact: Pennsylvania is the nation’s #1 producer of mushrooms, #2 producer of apples and ranks 3rd for eggs and Christmas trees!
**Fun Fact: Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s hard pretzels.
More than 350 unusual and thought-provoking items fill the Pennsylvania Icons hall, where visitors learn about the national influence of Pennsylvania’s unique places, people and products.
**Fun Fact: 20% of the United States’ production of craft beer is produced in Pennsylvania.
True-to-life historical facades, buildings, a summer kitchen and a general store represent a 19th century Pennsylvania town in the walk-through Village Square Hall. I wanted to find some hands-on activities, but unfortunately, this is a purely visual exhibit.
The creation and historical significance of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is thoroughly explored within the Transportation and Industry hall. Focusing on the tools, vehicles and the history of innovative machines, the exhibit gives viewers a fantastic and engaging glimpse into transportation industry and commerce.
**Fun Fact: In October of 1940, the nations first modern superhighway birthed a new interest in cross-country travel for post-WWII Americans. That superhighway is the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Native American artifacts and archeological methods are explored in great detail inside the Anthropology and Archeology Gallery.
**Fun Fact: The Meadowcroft Rockshelter, located near Avella in Washington County, Pennsylvania, boasts the earliest signs of human habitation in North America and has been continually inhabited for the past 19,000 years.
As a lover of the visual arts, we greatly enjoyed the engaging, rotating art exhibit, which featured unique art pieces bought and acquired by the museum through the years.
Overall, we found The State Museum of Pennsylvania educational, interesting and thought-provoking. It was clean, well organized, thorough, and visually stimulating. Of course, I prefer a hands-on approach and appreciate exhibits with interactive components, but the museum’s extensive collection makes up for its lack of experiential learning. My daughters and I left with massive amounts of new and relevant Pennsylvania state knowledge and a greater historical understanding of our nation.
Kudos to The State Museum of Pennsylvania. As a museum-obsessed, homeschooling mom, I give it a “B++”!
Hours of operation: Wed-Sat 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 pm.
Please note: The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Children ages 1-11 years: $5.00
The museum is FREE for military members and military families with ID’s. THANK YOU!
The State Museum of Pennsylvania is located at 300 North Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 17120. For more information, call 717-787-4980 or visit www.statemuseumpa.org.
For some other fun and educational adventures in the great state of Pennsylvania, check out: