Submitted by Dan Edleman, Upper School Social Studies Teacher
On Thursday, October 28th, the 7th Grade, Miss Murazzi, and I went on a field trip to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The students were greeted by the museum staff and received a brief introduction and history lesson about the museum. They then had time to explore the six-story concrete castle that houses over 40,000 artifacts of pre-industrial hand tools. Lastly, the students enjoyed good weather with an outdoor lunch on the museum’s grounds before returning for afternoon athletics at Wyndcroft.
The Bucks County Historical Society operates the Mercer Museum, as well as the research library located on the site. The organization also manages two other properties connected with Henry Champman Mercer. One being his former home, called Fonthill Castle, and the other is his former business, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. Those two sites are also located in Doylestown along the “Mercer Mile,” which is very close to the Museum. All three buildings are quite unique in that they are poured-in-place concrete structures designed and built by Mercer. Each building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and they are also included as a National Historic Landmarks.
Mercer, an archeologist, anthropologist, and tile-maker from Doylestown, wanted to create and build a museum that preserved the tools used for everyday life of the preindustrial age of the United States. He felt that the story of human progress and achievement was told through these tools and objects and that these time-honored occupations and crafts should be preserved before disappearing from memory. Mercer personally designed plans for the museum and oversaw its construction. The six-story structure was completed in 1916 and houses items like a whaling ship, a Conestoga wagon, gallows, a Franklin stove, and a vampire-killing kit, as well as many more amazing items. Some of these items are placed in individual exhibits, while others are hung from the walls and ceiling. The museum truly has a fun house-type feel, in which there is something unique catching your eye with every turn.
American industrialist Henry Ford once stated that the Mercer Museum was the only museum worth visiting in the United States and it was the inspiration for the creation of his own museum in Dearborn, Michigan. From that statement, the seventh graders were asked, if given the choice, what type of museum would they create? Students' answers ranged from art to sports to even a few museums for extinct animals.
Students were also asked to reflect on their visit and to make connections with their current lessons on Colonial America. Many students said that they enjoyed the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom, and many also said that they planned to visit the museum again. Several said to me that there was so much to see that they believe they might have missed something. Others shared which exhibit was their favorite while others talked about the building itself.
If you get the opportunity I would encourage you to visit the Mercer Museum.