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Independence Seaport Museum

An interactive museum exploring Philadelphia’s maritime heritage...

Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

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With historic vessels to board, interactive exhibits to explore and a mock cannon to fire, the Independence Seaport Museum encourages visitors to explore Philadelphia’s river of history and world of connections.

Along with displays that chronicle the city’s role in the founding of the U.S. Navy, exhibits delve into the Delaware River’s role in the African American journey through the Middle Passage, enslavement, emancipation, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement.

Berthed right outside are Cruiser OLYMPIA, the nation’s oldest floating steel warship (1892), most famous for being Admiral Dewey’s flagship during his Spanish-American war victory in Manila Bay, and Submarine BECUNA, a classic World War II submarine that fought battles in the South Pacific.

The History

The Independence Seaport Museum , dedicated to exploring the maritime history of the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay and tributaries, opened on Philadelphia’s waterfront in July 1995 after more than 35 years of rich history as the Philadelphia Maritime Museum.

In 1996, the museum assumed responsibility for the Cruiser OLYMPIA and Submarine BECUNA, which are both designated as National Historic Landmarks ships.

The Cruiser Olympia ship in Philadelphia The Cruiser Olympia ship in Philadelphia

Cruiser Olympia at the Independence Seaport Museum — Photo courtesy Independence Seaport Museum

River Alive!

The museum fully embraces its Delaware River setting with River Alive! , a 4,000-square-foot permanent exhibit opened in November 2018 that transforms the attraction’s first floor into an area devoted to the water it overlooks.

The exhibition examines how millions of people use the Delaware River for water, food and recreation and teaches guests about what lives in and around the river, the threats to the watershed and what people can do to help preserve the river and its surroundings for future generations.

The River Alive! exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum The River Alive! exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum

The River Alive! exhibit helps connect the Independence Seaport Museum with the nearby Delaware River. — Photo by D. Wisniewski for Visit Philadelphia

River Alive! includes an interactive River Continuum Wall illustrating how seemingly different environments (e.g. farmland and city) are connected since both use the same water source.

The space also features the Citizen Science Lab, where live, in-exhibit demonstrations take place, and a Watershed 3D Modeling Table, where visitors are encouraged to build their own waterways and learn how the river is used for development and industry and how that, in turn, impacts the flow of the water.

Don’t Miss

Kids (and their adults) can also rent kayaks or museum-built rowboats to explore the calm waters of the basin and get a close-up view of the historic ships at Paddle Penn’s Landing .

Two women paddle a rowboat in the basin of the Delaware River Two women paddle a rowboat in the basin of the Delaware River

Paddle Penn's Landing — Photo courtesy Independence Seaport Museum

Also, guests can check out The Seaport Boat Shop , a working boat shop where maritime tradition meets creativity, hands-on experiences, and community.

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