After years of trying to partner with other institutions to keep its doors open, the Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent is throwing in the towel. The city history museum will close indefinitely Monday.
While it will maintain its historic collection, it will no longer have public exhibitions.
As the official repository of the city’s material culture, the museum has a huge collection — including furniture, clothes, toys, sports equipment, portraits, even a native Lenape tribe beaded wampum belt.
It has the compass used in the first survey of the future city more than 300 years ago, and basketball shoes spray-painted gold for the 2005 Mummers Parade up Broad Street.
It has the taxidermy remains of a stray mutt that earned two Purple Hearts during World War I as the mascot of the 315th Infantry (“Philadelphia’s Own”) in France, and it has the commemorative program from the 1980 Phillies World Series championship.
A few years ago, the museum completely renovated its building on Seventh Street to make it more comfortable for visitors and artifacts, but the crowds didn’t come.
The city has been in talks with other partnering institutions, most recently Temple University, whose urban archive is an extensive collection of documents and photographs related to Philadelphia history. The university and the city were deep into negotiations, but city Managing Director Mike Deberardinis said this week Temple pulled out very abruptly.
“I’ll be frank about this. I didn’t like the way we read about it in the newspapers – their decision – and did not have an opportunity to talk to anybody about the rationale and the motivations and the challenges that led them to it,” he said. “On both fronts, we felt shortchanged.”
Temple University declined to comment.
The museum is not shutting down completely. DeBerardinis said the city is investing just over $1 million over the next five years — which is a significant budget reduction for the museum — in order to maintain the collection and a skeletal administration to figure out a way forward.
But, until further notice, it will be closed to the public as of Monday.