The Declaration’s Journey: Thinking about the 250th Exhibition at the Museum of the American Revolution

Phillip Mead, Museum of the American Revolution

Philip Mead will discuss the initial plans for the Museum of the American Revolution’s exhibition to mark the 250th anniversary of 1776.

April 13, 2022 - 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm @ Virtual
Image of Unite or Die image 1774.jpeg

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. 

Event Series

Signatures of eight signers of the Declaration of Independence with a connection to the University of Pennsylvania superimposed on an engraving of Benjamin Franklin

America 250 at Penn

The University of Pennsylvania (then the College of Philadelphia), located In the heart of the city, was at the center of the dramatic events of 1776 and the Revolution that followed. Members of the Penn community were closely linked to the creation of the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents.

Featured image: Unite or Die, woodcut printed in Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser, December 21, 1774, Rare Book Collection, Kislak Center