Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tour

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Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tour

Behind five sets of locks – including a 19th century bank vault door – rest some of the most treasured items in HSP’s collection of over 21 million manuscripts, graphics, and books.

The roster of items kept in HSP's most secure vault provides a narrative of the complicated, messy history of America and its citizens.

Through the Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tours, HSP offers the opportunity to see these documents closer than ever before. Some of our most valuable treasures include:

  • Francis Scott Key's handwritten lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner
  • A handwritten account of the Underground Railroad, including a mention of Harriet Tubman
  • The first photograph taken in North America
  • Early drafts of the U.S. Constitution
  • Dr. John Fryer's handwritten speech which led to homosexuality being declassified as a psychiatic illness.
  • Watercolors from WWII Japanese Internment camps.

Through these items, visitors will learn not only the history of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. The treasured items of HSP chart the development of a fledgling federation of mildly-antagonistic states into a nation of peoples bound together by shared beliefs and values - and the struggle to secure these rights for all Americans, regardless of creed, color, or lifestyle.

The safari guide through HSP's most secure vault is Lee Arnold, HSP's Senior Director of the Library and Collections, whose 20-year intimate knowledge of the collection is only matched by his enthusiasm. He will also show visitors items as they arrive at HSP, what’s involved in preparing them for research, and how they are preserved and digitized.

Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tours are 60 minutes and accommodate parties of up to six people. The tour is $500 per group. 

Please contact HSP’s Communications Manager Marie Jordan, for more information or to register.

Contact Information: 

To register for a Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tour, please contact HSP's Communications Manager Marie Jordan, at 215.732.6200 ext. 233 or