In a remarkable coincidence, two similar museums are opening this month on the East Coast. Except that they aren’t comparable. Think of it as the American Revolution’s next battle.
After a soft opening last fall, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown opened officially with hoopla and major speakers. As it stands majestically overlooking the York River, the place spans 22,000 square feet and cost $50 million—before artifacts. An outdoor site below the museum heralds the work of camp followers.
By contrast, the Museum of the American Revolution at Philadelphia opens April 19. It spans 118,000 square feet and cost around $200 million. It lies just two blocks from Independence Hall. Yorktown has 500 artifacts, but only three or four are new and nothing particularly notable. It’s apparent but unspoken that Philadelphia scooped up whatever good stuff was available for sale or loan.
Yorktown’s keynote speaker was Gov., Terry McAuliffe. Philadelphia has Joe Biden, David McCullough and Cokie Roberts.
The opening ceremony will also feature addresses by a famous history professor, the CEO of Indian Nation Enterprises, and an Army colonel representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart. The last speaker is ironic since the Purple Heart was established by Gen. Washington at Yorktown.
Yorktown’s museum doesn’t talk about Philadelphia’s, which is typical marketing behavior. Yorktown went a step farther in the hoopla when Sen. Tommy Norment said correctly, “We tell a national story” that extends beyond the two local battles. He went on to say that 78% of the museum visitors come from out-of-state, implying Yorktown is a discrete destination. In fact, they are ususally visiting Williamsburg and happen to get to Yorktown. Good for them, but the real national museum will be in Philadelphia.
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