6ABC Loves The Arts

Please Touch Museum's Centennial tours

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Please Touch Museum is housed in Memorial Hall, built for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

The Museum's Centennial tours offer a glimpse back in time when America was celebrating its 100th birthday.

The Exhibition opened 137 years ago on May 10th, 1876.

200,000 people came through Memorial Hall on the first day alone.

"This building was designed to be the art gallery for the centennial and it was the first international art exhibit in the U.S.," said Phil Valenti, Centennial Experience Host.

Some of the original sculptures are still there and there's a replica of the fair's Statue of Liberty arm and torch.

"The French people raised money for the statue. We had to raise the money for the pedestal so people could pay 10 cents and climb up inside," said Valenti.

Each of the hall's rooms was a gallery dedicated to a different country.

"So this was the Italian room, mainly ceramic, tiles from Italy," said Valenti.

A highlight of the tour is the giant model of the entire Centennial Exposition.

"Because a lot of people don't even know that the fair was here and then when you see just how big it was, it's pretty phenomenal," said David Frazier Hutchman, Director of Performance and Events.

You also take a ride on the 1908 Dentzel Carousel.

"It's an historic carousel. It's a work of art as well," said Valenti.

Immigrant artists carved the wooden horses by hand, and for years the carousel lived at nearby Woodside Park.

"We're a children's museum and we're not necessarily a history museum but the history cannot be denied. We realized that a lot of people just wanted to see the history," said Frazier.

The 90 minute tours run four days a week. For tickets and scheduling, go to pleasetouchmuseum.org

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philadelphia, lifestyle, 6abc loves the arts, karen rogers
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