When the National Liberty Museum opened in 2000, founder Irvin Borowsky proclaimed, “We, who are fortunate enough to live in the land of liberty, must protect it, preserve it and guard it for future generations.”
Since then, the museum, nestled into the historic district in Philadelphia, has taken its place – just a block away from Independence Hall – seriously with a mission to reinforce the basic principles for safeguarding liberty, including heroism, empathy, and the appreciation of diversity.
Built to remind visitors that liberty is the factor that makes everything else possible, the Museum’s signature centerpiece is the Flame Gallery which features the 21-ft Flame of Liberty by renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. The stunning glass flame represents the power of liberty that can spread from a spark and erupts into vibrant colors, accompanied by a 360° immersive display.
The Flame of Liberty extends to the second floor which features the Heroes from Around the World exhibit that includes a replica of Nelson Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island and the annex where Anne Frank was hidden.
The Voyage to Liberty gallery examines the journey of American liberty and the citizens who helped shape America’s freedoms by using their First Amendment rights to advance liberty for themselves and others. Through stained glass biblical scenes by Maurice Gareau and other art and imagery, the exhibit focuses on religious freedom and the principles upon which the country was founded.
Heroes of Liberty honors those who live among us, including teachers, students, police officers, firefighters, and many other ordinary citizens of diverse backgrounds, who work together to keep their communities strong and flourishing. The visit to this gallery culminates in the Jellybean Children sculpture, which represents the diversity of America.
While strolling the museum, take a picture with an exact replica of the Liberty Bell and browse a collection of original White House China in Liberty Hall.
The National Liberty Museum’s glass gallery inspires visitors to think about the fragility of liberty and how to preserve it. Seasonal exhibits complement the Museum’s permanent glass collection and feature both local and international contemporary glass artists.
Currently on view is an exhibit of cast glass, ceramics, and mixed media by artist Micaela Amateau Amato. Welcome the Stranger offers an interpretation of the likeness of modern and historic figures who rose like “superheroes” to accept seemingly impossible challenges of liberty such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Malala Yousafzai, and many others.
When asked what motivated her to produce this series, Micaela explained that her work is a reflection of her multiple personal and political influences resulting from her family’s history. “As a first-generation American, I was brought up with an acute appreciation of America’s unique heritage of liberty for all, learning Emma Lazarus’ Lady Liberty poem [“The New Colossus”] as a young child… Seeing myself in others, I learned to cherish social justice and my civic responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens through education and dialogue.”
Amato is professor emerita of art and women’s studies at Penn State University. Her work will be on display in the Museum’s GlassAccess Gallery through June 9, 2019.
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