Philadelphia Museums and Galleries – Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia is known throughout the world due to the fact that the independence of the United States of America was proclaimed here in 1776. The main attractions are associated with this grand event: Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center. The entire history of the city is imbued with the spirit of freedom, democracy, and civil society.

There are also museums and galleries in Philadelphia that display valuable works of art. Their rich collections attract a considerable number of tourists every year. However, not every tourist can visit them all. Usaartnews has collected the most outstanding Philadelphia museums.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

Walking through the city center, be sure to visit this place. This Philadelphia museum is one of the most important art centers, and the school at the museum brings new creators to the world every year.

The PAFA is not only a museum. It is also an art school in Philadelphia.

. It is the first and oldest art museum and art school in the United States. The Academy Museum is known worldwide for its collections of American paintings, sculptures, and works of art on paper from the 19th and 20th centuries.Its archives contain important materials for the study of American art history and art education.

The Academy of the Fine Arts was founded in 1805 by artist and scholar Charles Wilson Peel, sculptor William Rush, and other artists and business leaders. The development of the Academy of Arts was slow.

For many years it held its exhibitions in a building that was built in 1806 by John Dorsey. The academy held its first exhibition in 1811. They had over 500 paintings and statues on display. The academy was to be reconstructed after a fire in 1845. However, 23 years later, its leaders raised funds to build a building more worthy of his treasures. The history of the current building of the museum began in 1871. It opened in 1876 to commemorate the centenary of Philadelphia. Designed by American architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt, the building has been dubbed One of the Most Magnificent Victorian Buildings in the Country. It is the main architectural monument in the city.

The collection is organized chronologically and thematically, allowing you to explore the history of American art step by step from the 1760s to the present day. Since its founding, the Philadelphia museum has collected work from leading American artists, as well as the work of prominent alumni and faculty members of their school.

Acquisitions and exhibition programs are balanced between historical and contemporary art, and the museum continues to display the work of contemporary artists and presents annual displays of work by Academy students.

For over 110 years, the annual student show has been one of the city’s most anticipated annual events.

Each spring, students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts showcase their work in the Philadelphia museum galleries, and members of the public can purchase artwork created by the next generation of rising stars in the art scene.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

This museum is a temple of Philadelphia art. It is an absolute must-see cultural center of the city. Its vast collections make it one of the largest art museums in the country.

The museum collection is famous mainly for the works of Pennsylvania artists (in particular, Thomas Eakins) and the masterpieces of modern painting, among which are “Dance at the Moulin Rouge” by Toulouse-Lautrec, “Big Bathers” by Renoir, “Soft construction with boiled beans” by Salvador Dali, as well as the most famous works of Marcel Duchamp (Nude Descending the Stairs, The Bride Undressed by Her Bachelors, etc.).

The museum building is very recognizable – it is the monumental columns and the famous staircase, which many visitors recall from the movie Rocky. Right there, not far from the entrance to the museum, the sculpture of Rocky Balboa, one of the most famous residents of the city of Philadelphia, is installed.

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

In front of the museum, there is a small square called Eakins Oval, named after the most famous artist in Philadelphia. In the middle, there is an equestrian monument to George Washington on a magnificent pedestal.

The Museum of Art of Philadelphia houses the Rodin Museum and the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Building, which, in addition to exhibition galleries, also houses administrative offices, research laboratories, an impressive museum library, and archives.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

As you know, in America, the path of blacks to equality was long and difficult. However, despite numerous difficulties, they managed to preserve their cultural heritage. This Philadelphia museum was founded in 1976 in honor of the country’s bicentennial.

During this time, it has become an integral part of the cultural landscape of the city. The Philadelphia museum is dedicated to the history of people of African descent in Philadelphia during the turbulent years after the creation of the United States.

Through the exhibition, visitors will be able to learn who those people were, how they lived and worked, and what their influence on American culture is. The exhibition tells the story of African Americans, touching all areas of their lives: family, civil rights movement, arts, and entertainment, sports, medicine, politics, religion, and technology.

At the moment, the museum has four large galleries. Each has exhibitions on three important themes: the African diaspora, the history of Philadelphia, and contemporary narrative.

The permanent exhibitions also include an interactive timeline that spans a hundred years of history: the chronology of the most interesting moments in the life of the African American people is represented by a sequence of images and documents found in historical archives.

In addition, guests of the museum are greeted by ten full-size video projections depicting Philadelphia’s African American pioneers, who are ready to answer questions about their lives and talk about their personal contribution to the development of the city. Throughout its existence, the Philadelphia museum represents the achievements and aspirations of the African American people from pre-colonial times to the present day.

Penn Museum

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

It is believed that the three floors of the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, founded in 1887 (The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology), contains almost all of the world’s cultural heritage. Despite the obvious exaggeration, this statement contains the lion’s share of truth.

The Philadelphia museum exhibits Egyptian mummies and Indian amulets, antique Greek coins and Mesopotamian artifacts, musical instruments from Asia and Africa, and many other exhibits.

It should be noted that the museum organized and sponsored about 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions. The museum constantly hosts temporary exhibitions, many of which are interactive, with themed films, slideshows, and presentations.

The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology is dearly loved by the people of Philadelphia, especially children, who learn world history here in an exciting way.

Franklin Science Institute

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

Founded in memory of America’s distinguished scientist and politician, the Franklin Institute is ranked among the oldest centers of science and education in the country. It remains faithful to its ancestral traditions to this day and continues to awaken a passion for science in visitors, offering new and exciting ways to explore the world.

Its founders were W. Keating and S. Merrick. According to their idea, the main purpose of the Institute was to promote the mechanical arts. However, the Franklin Institute was ready for other scientific missions.


Since its founding (February 1824), it has played a key role in meeting America’s diverse scientific and technical needs.

In 1930, despite the Great Depression, the institution raised funds to additionally build a memorial hall and science museum, which is now the most visited in the state of Pennsylvania.

Every day, the Franklin Institute offers visitors of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to immerse themselves in the exciting world of science and technology. His museum contains the works and inventions of Benjamin Franklin, which reflect the scientist’s ardent interest in research and discovery.

It also houses the largest collection of artifacts from the Wright brothers’ workshop of aircraft designers.

In addition to the exposition on the topic of electricity, weather phenomena, the work of the human body, space, the Franklin Institute also hosts famous traveling exhibitions that attract more and more visitors.

For example, the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, the most visited museum exhibit in the world in 2007, aroused great interest. The Franklin Institute constantly organizes public lectures and scientific symposia to arrange open discussions on topical issues.

This creates an informal and educational dialogue with the public on the most important issues in science. An obligatory part of a tour of the Philadelphia museum is a visit to the rotunda of the main building. Here is the famous monument to Benjamin Franklin.

The central part of the memorial is represented by a majestic 20-meter marble statue of the President, solemnly seated on a pedestal.

Rodin Museum

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

Rodin Museum is one of the most famous museums in Philadelphia.

It is not very large in the area, but at the same time, it is the world’s second collection of works by the famous French sculptor. It is located in the middle of a picturesque park under a glass dome, which already strongly distinguishes the exposition of the Philadelphia Museum from similar ones.

The Rodin Museum presents to its guests an exhibition of 133 sculptures by the famous master. Some of the most valuable artworks are under the dome of the museum. While the others are on display right in the park surrounding the museum.

In addition to finished sculptures, there are also samples of bronze casting, blanks, books, as well as personal belongings of Auguste Rodin.

Each work is accompanied by a plate with useful and informative information. For more information about the exhibits, visitors can download an app called the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia on their phone and make their visit to the museum even more informative.

Many guests who have visited the famous Rodin Museum in Paris say that in Philadelphia, it is a smaller copy, only more elegant and cozy.

Barnes Foundation

Philadelphia Museums and Galleries - Guide To the Must-See Exhibitions

The Barnes Foundation is both an educational center, a school of fine arts, and one of the most interesting and unusual Philadelphia museums. Founded in the 1920s by the American physician and inventor Albert Barnes, today it is one of the largest collections of French painters of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Barnes Foundation is a somewhat unusual but extremely interesting Philadelphia museum. What is only the history of its creation!

Albert Barnes was born into a poor butcher family. The boy had few prospects, but thanks to his diligence and perseverance, he receives an excellent education.

A key moment in Barnes’s life was meeting Herman Hill. Together, they formed a pharmaceutical company that began to generate large profits. Previously rejected by Philadelphia high society, the poorly promising poor man became a famous and quite rich person.

But, in spite of everything, he does not spend the big money that he has on all kinds of entertainment but decides to acquire at that time his own collection of French painting, starting to acquire canvases by famous and little-known artists at that time.

The collection, which was destined to grow to its present size, is impressive enough to be called the Barnes Foundation.

The collection began with two paintings purchased by Barnes at European auctions – “Woman with a Cigarette” by Picasso, and “Postman” by Van Gogh. Further, guided by his own discretion and the advice of his friends, Albert Barnes made several other very successful acquisitions.

The collection was constantly expanding, and finally, back in 1922, Albert Barnes organized his personal fund – a gallery, which was absolutely different from other similar ones. Not everyone could see the collection. Anyone wishing to get into the Barnes Foundation and see the collection of paintings had to submit a personal petition to the owner of the gallery and receive an answer from him.

Rumor has it that the owner refused to very many, including well-known personalities. Such a strict and private system of selection of visitors only created additional excitement among art lovers. The Barnes Foundation also did not allow photographing of its canvases; photographs were only allowed to be taken in the gallery lobby.

After his death, Albert Barnes forbade moving paintings to other rooms or changing their location in each of the gallery rooms. Thanks to this, today, 70 years after the death of Mr. Barnes, each painting weighs exactly in the place where it was placed personally by the owner of the collection.


Philadelphia is rich in museums. However, not every tourist is able to visit all the museum depositories of the city. Nevertheless, to visit Philadelphia and not look into the famous national museums is an unforgivable oversight. So, we suggest that you get acquainted in absentia with those places that you should certainly not pass by.




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