This spring the kids and I took a trip to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA. For my two boys a fun museum is a difficult thing to find. They love The Museum of Natural History, but are somewhat warm to art museums, no matter how much I like them. The Mercer Museum really hit the spot for them. We came not knowing what to expect and found it to be a fascinating place with so much to explore.
When you first come you see a beautiful building, and right outside you can find machinery in the shed that was used in the pre-industrial age.
When you buy tickets, they tell you to go on an elevator and go up to the 6th floor. What you don’t expect is for the elevator to open on top of a roof landing out in fresh air. We were surprised in a very good way by that.
Once you are up there you go through a small archway to a tiny red door. It is all very exciting, especially for two boys who like everything even remotely magical.
After you go through the tiny red door, you find yourself in a castle that houses thousands of artifacts. Thousands!! Spanning quite a few centuries. It is absolutely amazing. The castle has a very real feel to it. It is stone and cement, and not heated, so if you are there in the colder months, keep your hats on. It is exciting to explore, especially on the top, with small passageways and spiral staircases, small secret rooms. Amazing. There are many of the larger items on the top, including gallows, and caskets, carriages, bikes, all kinds of neat stuff.
After you explore the top level you will notice that the path descends in a spiral around the castle walls. In the center is more large stuff hanging, like boats, and carriages, and along the sides are small rooms that showcase different categories of items, from sewing clothing, making and preserving foods, clockwork, things a doctor would use, toys, weapons. You name it. It is all very fascinating. All the while there are small nooks and crannies, and little rooms on the sides you can explore.
Also, at the front desk the really nice lady gave my kids an activity. They get a sheet with some pictures of animals and while they explore they have to find the animals around the castle and stamp the paper when they found one. It was especially fun for my younger one.
Eventually, and slowly we made our way down to the bottom, where you come out to a great central hall.
Also, be sure to stop by the library. It really does look like something out of Harry Potter. It is also the only room that is heated. I thought it was amazing!
Here is a bit from the Henry Mercer Museum website about the museum and what it is:
“By 1897 handmade objects were being discarded in favor of new machine-made goods. Historian and archaeologist Henry Mercer (1856-1930) recognized the need to collect and preserve the outmoded material of daily life in America before it was swept away by the Industrial Revolution. Mercer gathered almost 30,000 items ranging from hand tools to horse-drawn vehicles and assembled this encyclopedic collection in a system of his own devising. To enhance the collection’s educational value, and to share it with the public, Mercer decided to design and build a museum to display the artifacts.
In 1916, Mercer erected a 6-story concrete castle. The towering central atrium of the Museum was used to hang the largest objects such as a whale boat, stage coach and Conestoga wagon. On each level surrounding the court, smaller exhibits were installed in a warren of alcoves, niches and rooms according to Mercer’s classifications — healing arts, tinsmithing, dairying, illumination and so on. The end result of the building is a unique interior that is both logical and provocative. It requires the visitor to view objects in a new way.”
retrieved from http://www.mercermuseum.org/about-the-museums/mission-and-history-mercer/ on 5/23/2013
“The Mercer Museum is a history museum of everyday life in America during the 18th and 19th centuries. Henry Mercer (1856-1930) gathered the collection and constructed the Museum. The collection of some 40,000 objects documents the lives and tasks of early Americans through the tools that met their needs and wants prior to the Industrial Revolution, or about 1850. Visitors can choose their own paths through the Museum. Most of the 55 exhibit rooms and alcoves display the tools or products of an early American craft, trade or occupation. Other rooms show categories of objects such as lighting devices or architectural hardware.”
retrieved from http://www.mercermuseum.org/visit-us/mercer-museum-guide/ on 5/23/2013
You can find more historical information, as well as prices, hours and directions on their WEBSITE.
Henry Mercer was also known for his tile work, and it is evident throughout the museum. It is beautiful and amazing to see.