On Wednesday, October 16, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) will unveil its redesigned lobby, library, and collection vaults—the result of a $5.7 million renovation project.
The public is invited to a grand reopening celebration at the library at 1300 Locust Street in Philadelphia from 12:30–8 p.m. Throughout the day, visitors can view a free display of the most treasured items from HSP’s world-renowned collection, including watercolor portraits of Hannah and William Penn, a handwritten draft of the U.S. Constitution, the journal of Underground Railroad conductor William Still, and more! Because of their national significance and sensitivity to light and temperature, these documents are rarely displayed. This display—free to attend—is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all of these national treasures at one time.
HSP began renovating its library, which was designed by architect Addison Hutton and dates to the early 20th century, last March. As part of the renovations, the Society constructed a 10-foot-high digital wall that displays images from the collection, modernized our lobby to make it more welcoming, improved HSP’s security system to ensure the safety of the library’s archive, and installed compact storage shelving to make more room for our growing collection.
Also on October 16, HSP will offer free behind-the-scenes tours of its library (on the hour). See firsthand how a document is mended and restored; learn how archivists organize and catalog historic materials, and walk in the footsteps of our librarians as you enter a collection storage vault. Visitors to HSP will also enjoy free refreshments, special membership promotions, and half-price admission to our research library.
Events are free, but pre-registration is requested.
What is the cause for such celebration? Over the past eight months, HSP has completed a massive renovation. HSP has:
- Redesigned its entrance foyer, installing a new reception desk, a patron lounge with a kitchenette, larger lockers, and several digital display screens;
- Constructed a state-of-the-art 10-foot-high digital wall at the entrance of the library, which displays images from HSP’s world-renowned collection;
- Installed document display cases in HSP’s library, which feature original items from the collection;
- Upgraded HSP’s security system, including new video cameras and turnstiles, to ensure the safety and protection of HSP’s archival materials;
- Enhanced amenities for our visitors, with new microfilm readers, comfortable seating, and improved lighting;
- Improved collection storage in three vaults by installing rolling compact shelving, giving HSP additional space to continue to grow its collection;
- Bar coded and inventoried thousands of collection items, to provide better access for researchers;
- Replaced the roof, repaired the building’s façade, and installed a new HVAC and sprinkler systems.
The renovations have been funded in part by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the William Penn Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, Howard and Maxine Lewis, the Hamilton Family Foundation, the City of Philadelphia, and anonymous donors.
The grand reopening on October 16 is just the beginning of HSP’s two-week celebration. Events continue the following week with “Back to School at HSP,” an educators open house from 4:30–7 p.m. Tuesday, October 22, and the History Affiliates Awards Reception, which honors the achievements of history and heritage organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, from 5:30–7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 24.
The document display, Treasures of the Collection, which opens October 16, will continue through Friday, October 25. This display, which is free to attend, is open during regular library hours. For more information about these additional events or the document display, visit hsp.org/calendar.