Arch Street Meeting House has just installed brand new outside exhibits. This exciting addition will elevate the meetinghouse to one of the must-see historic sites in Old City Philadelphia and will attract thousands of visitors to the historic property to learn about Quakerism for years to come. On Friday, May 27th, from 5-8, regional Quakers, history enthusiasts and supporters of the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust will celebrate this milestone with a celebration and exhibit unveiling.
Interview with Sean Connolly, the Executive Director of the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, about their new outside exhibits.
Q: It’s been a year since the successful fundraising campaign for the new outside exhibits at Arch Street Meeting House, how is the project progressing?
Things have progressed really well. Last summer, we hired Exhibitology out of Newark, NJ and Paul Trapido to design the new outside exhibit designs. That was really successful, we followed up that design process with two days of exhibit prototyping, basically testing out the new exhibit content and making sure it spoke to both the regular visitor and to the Quaker community. Based off of what we learned there we made a few edits to the design and the Board of Trustees approved the final design this past Fall. After that the designs went off to the fabrication company and are now ready to be installed at Arch Street Meeting House in early May.
Q: What role do you see these new exhibits will have in Arch Street Meeting House’s ability to engage with the public and teach about Quakerism?
These exhibits have everything to do with fulfilling that role. These exhibits will give visitors just enough information to spark their interest and encourage them to come inside the Meetinghouse to learn more. Getting people in the door had been one of our biggest problems, most visitors were unsure of what this site is. The terms meetinghouse and monthly meeting, while integral to the Quaker faith offered little clarity to visitors on what they would learn about when they step inside out grounds. These new exhibits signs clear that up. They answer the broad questions like what is Quakerism, and then also tell really impactful relatable stories that resonate with visitors. In the end more visitors will learn about Quakerism and come away more interested in the Quaker faith than ever before.
Q: You mention impactful, and relatable stories, can you give an example?
I wish I could, but I’d prefer if visitors could stop down to Arch Street and see the new exhibits for themselves. Let me just say that you will now see a more well-rounded, and full story of Quakerism on display at ASMH.
Q: Have there been any challenges associated with this project?
Sure, Covid-19 presented a continuing challenge, as most of the designs had to be done virtually. But that also made us more efficient with our time. Shipping delays were an ever-present cause for concern and we were not immune from the global shipping delays. But luckily, we kept it pretty much on track and are very glad to be able to deliver on our goals to our supporters, Grantmakers and Quakers across the world. We’ll be so glad to have the exhibit in place before the summer tourist rush. Really even with some small delays its perfect timing.
Q: What is next on the agenda for the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust?
We recently conducted a Feasibility Study in preparation for a capital campaign for the meetinghouse. We have a lot of big projects on the horizon, HVAC, fire suppression systems and preservation and delivering on phase 2 of the exhibit overhaul – inside the meetinghouse. Honestly the next decade is going to be awesome and I’m looking forward to being able to see the meetinghouse address new problems. But before then make sure to stop by to see the new exhibits, they offer a glimmer into exciting things to come.
To see the new exhibits readers can visit Arch Street Meeting House, Thursday-Sunday, between 10am and 4pm or attend the official exhibit unveiling celebration on Friday, May 27th between 5pm and 8pm. Email Sean Connolly at SConnolly@HistoricASMH.org or go to www.HistoricASMH.org for more details.
The Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, operates the Arch Street Meeting House on behalf of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.