Ever since we moved here in 2007, I've been hearing about the Mercer Museum. It's on the homeschooler's list of must-do field trips, though we never managed to actually find or arrange a group field trip. I finally took my kid to see it last week, in celebration of the beginning of our 2010/2011 academic year.
Henry Chapman Mercer was a tile collector and tile maker, among other things. His interest in history and archaeology and his involvement in the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries prompted his desire "to collect and preserve the outmoded material of daily life in America before it was swept away by the Industrial Revolution."
And preserve he did. This museum is unbelievable. It has - everything. Tools, kitchen implements, boats and coaches, a gallows, guns, whaling equipment, a cider press, spinning and sewing tools... seriously, if it's old, it's here.
Parts of a tollbooth!
And a toll sign.
A whaling boat. I know we're supposed to hate whaling and all, but why do whaling boats seem so beautiful?
If it looks like stuff is hanging, that's because it is. The museum is 6 mezzanine floors, with a big space in the middle - not empty, but hung with large items. The walls are lined with little rooms containing smaller displays. The pharmacy display was really interesting, but there was too much glare for the photo. (All photos taken by my girl, by the way, with her Christmas gift camera.)
Diving equipment. I am not sure what that white thing on the right is. My kids said it was some part of a fish but they couldn't remember what. Not a spine. Some things were not marked. Maybe we should have known. I love those old diving helmets.
Guns and powder horns. Lots of guns and other weaponry here. Also handcuffs and other police equipment. We were stunned by the gallows. It was too big to photograph. Creepy yet fascinating.
There were a lot of kitchen displays. My photographer really loved the chick chocolate mold. I have a feeling chocolate molding is in our future. Oh, there were laundry items too, including a mangle.
If you live in or near southeastern Pennsylvania, or are planning a trip to the area, you need to come here. We could have spent hours. We will come back with Dad and spend hours.
There are two other Mercer-related museums, Fonthill (Mercer's home) and the Moravian Pottery & Tile Works. We visited Fonthill (more on that later) but have not seen the tile works yet. Soon!
For homeschooling purposes, this covered Pennsylvania history and science. (Do you know how turpentine was made? We do now.) If we'd taken sketchbooks we could have included art, though I guess the photography counts too. But even if we weren't looking for educational activities to count for the state, we'd love this place.