Provisionally titled The Declaration’s Journey: 250 Years of a Founding Document, the exhibit will explore, through a sampling of approximately 100 evocative national and international loan objects, some of the thorny and complex tensions, contradictions, and legacies that appear in various American and International interpretations, appropriations, and borrowings from the language and ideas of the 1776 Declaration of Independence through the present day. The exhibition will combine recent examinations of the Declaration that have intensely focused on the document’s language with attention to the relatively less explored claims of authority, power, and rights asserted by contemporary and later revolutionaries and reformers. For example, what sorts of "Declarations" were made by enslaved people with little or no access and means to print, or by national movements that faced international censorship, or movements that took place communities that relied more on visual persuasion or violence instead of print. By situating themes from the documentary and language history of the Declaration alongside an examination of objects that asserted complimentary or competing ideas of revolution through swords, microphones, spray paint, or embroidery, this exhibition will provide a sometimes contextual and sometimes comparative exploration of the Declaration’s meaning and context as a Revolutionary object.
In this discussion, Dr. Mead looks forward to feedback from the Penn community and suggestions about what documents and objects from Penn collections might make good topics for consideration in the exhibition or in related programs and other offerings.
Dr. Philip Mead has served as Historian and Curator at the Museum of the American Revolution since 2014. Dr. Mead, a specialist in the era of the American Revolution, previously served as an advising historian for exhibition development in the Museum. He received his Ph.D. in American history from Harvard University in 2012; his dissertation is entitled “’Melancholy Landscapes:’ Writing Warfare in the American Revolution.” From 2012-2014 Dr. Mead was a lecturer in the history department at Harvard University.