Industrial Philadelphia – The Workshop of the World, Morris Berd, 1952 (Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel, Gift of Stern’s Department Stores, 90.81.1).

‘Philadelphia Revealed,’ From the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel Reflects 350 Years of Philly History

An exhibition, podcast and platform for anyone to add their story to Philadelphia history.
Phillies World Series Championship Ring, 2008 (Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel, Gift of Mayor Michael Nutter, 14.18.1).
Phillies World Series Championship Ring, 2008 (Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel, Gift of Mayor Michael Nutter, 14.18.1).

This summer, the Atwater Kent Collection (AKC) at Drexel University invites the public to experience the exhibition Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic, an interactive display of over 600 authentic objects, telling the story of Philadelphia’s city history collection.

The exhibition aims to evoke feelings of pride and awe, encompassing an array of Philadelphia stories reflecting 350 years of city history, and will include hundreds of historical images, as well as multimedia and hands-on elements.  Organized into nine thematic sections, standout items on display will include a 1688 deed from William Penn, material from one of the first African American Philadelphia Police officers, objects from a 1700s sunken British ship dredged from the Delaware River, a bowler/derby hat worn by Abraham Lincoln and the earliest dated piano made in America, among hundreds other historical artifacts.

Philadelphia Revealed will run from Thursday, July 18, through Sunday, Dec. 1, in the Fisher Brooks and Frances M. Maguire Galleries at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), in the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building at 128 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Operating hours are Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission will be waived for anyone with a Drexel ID and the exhibition will be free to the public on Thursday, Sept. 26, Friday, Sept. 27, Sunday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Nov. 24.

The exhibition highlights the strengths of the AKC (former Philadelphia History Museum), including material representing the Museum’s earliest acquisitions, eclectic collections it absorbed, national celebrations, development of the city and civic history, Philly sports, salvaged material and relics, manufacturing and retail, and art and music. 

“Sharing a narrative of a collection is an awesome responsibility – each object is a reflection of the elements of the city of Philadelphia and the lives and experiences of the people who live and work here,” said Stacey Swigart, director of the Atwater Kent Collection. “We have packed this exhibition with a variety of themes and stories – through the objects – that we hope will inspire every visitor to reflect on how they are a part of the history of Philadelphia through their own experience and memories.”

Philadelphia Revealed will also present its audience with an interactive game, facilitated by First Person Arts, where visitors can find and add their own stories to the archives. Visitors can hear other Philadelphians’ stories through The Philadelphia Revealed Podcast, produced by WHYY and hosted by Jamie J. Brunson of First Person Arts. The series will premier Wednesday, July 10, with releases 10 consecutive weeks, to Sept. 11. Each podcast episode will feature a new storyteller highlighting an object from the exhibition and sharing their own story inspired by it.

Philadelphia history is still being told; Philadelphia Revealed aims to find out what these objects mean to all of us. 

The selection of objects that will be showcased in the Philadelphia Revealed exhibition is subsequent to the AKC’s inaugural exhibition, Seeing Philadelphia. The exhibition presented views of the city in prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and maps from the Collection, paired with photography and writing from students and community members who responded to these views.

The AKC includes an extraordinary assemblage of more than 130,000 historical artifacts, works of art, and archival materials relating to Philadelphia and American history. Over 7,600 objects are available digitally, so far, via the AKC Online Collection database, accessible to the public at Drexel continues to plan initiatives that will bring the AKC into public view and invite an active response from audiences—including for the upcoming 250th anniversary of the nation in 2026.

Drexel continues to evaluate, research and organize the materials in the AKC. The University will work with Philadelphia's many institutions and cultural organizations to ensure that items can be borrowed, displayed, interpreted, and once again appreciated throughout the city and beyond.

Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic is made possible through the support of the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, the Connelly Foundation, and the Syde Hurdus Foundation – as well as support provided by donors to Drexel University Collections and Exhibitions. 

The Philadelphia Revealed Podcast and additional programming—Reshaping Historical Narratives through the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University, in collaboration with WHYY and First Person Arts—has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

For more information about Philadelphia Revealed visit: