My day in the National Constitution Center’s history wonderland

Benjamin Franklin…Martin Luther King Jr…William Penn…1865…1787… The Revolutionary War… War, war, and more war…. Ah yes, American history. Are you asleep yet?

National surveys suggest that most of you probably are. As far as academics go, history is ranked at the bottom of the barrel in the fun category.

If you view history as never-ending lessons saturated in a succession of facts and are burdened by the endless mounds of information brimming in your brain, get ready for your world to be turned upside down.

On a recent Sunday, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia was jam-packed with tourists voluntarily occupying their free time caught up in America’s roots. That’s right, they actually wanted to be there.

The reason? Because enduring time-lines tend to produce enthralling stories.

“Our visitors come to see American History in the modern day,” said an attendant at the Center. “When you’re here, the concept of history being boring is non-existent. Boring is, well…history!”

And she was right. The tour, which begins with a powerful presentation of “Freedom Rising,” takes place in the state-of-art, multimedia Kimmel Theater. In other words, this is not your typical history presentation. The lighting and special effects left the audience hypnotized.

The story of “We The People” left them mesmerized.

“Seeing everything before your eyes – how we started and how far we have come. From equality, women’s voting rights, just everything, it’s amazing,” said Erin, a college student from Temple University, who was intrigued with her first visit to the museum. “And between the surroundings and special lighting, the music and the speaker…it was really inspiring.”

But the theater is just a fraction of the experience.

According to the National Constitution Center, this historical wonderland is one of America’s most interactive history museums. From voting for your favorite president, to viewing a judicial robe worn by Sandra Day O’Connor, to deciding a Supreme Court Case, the possibilities are endless.

  “It was really neat,” said 10 year-old Jacob. The fifth grader, who said he is a die-hard gamer, said he would definitely give up another day of playing Xbox to visit the museum again. “My favorite part was being able to sign my name on the Constitution.”

Jacob is referring to Signers’ Hall. The exhibit consists of a replica of the room where the signers of the constitution met back in 1787.  Mounted about the room are forty-two life-sized figures. Some people find it fascinating, while others find it eerie.

“The Assembly Room is occupied by the thirty-nine delegates who signed, as well as the three who dissented,” said a Center tour guide. “And, of course, there is Benjamin Franklin…feel free to shake his hand.”

According to the Constitution Center, the Benjamin Franklin statue is such a hit that the constant handshakes and head rubs are causing his bronzed finish to turn shiny.

While Ben is the main squeeze for many visitors, there is another core exhibit that the museum says is equally popular. “The Presidential Oath of Office. It’s definitely one of our most prevalent displays. All ages enjoy it,” said a guide.

Elsewhere in the exhibition gallery visitors can stand behind a podium, which is complete with the Presidential Seal, and recite the Presidential Oath of Office along with a computerized Chief Justice, while their image is projected above on a large screen. Long-line aside, many visitors feel it’s worth the wait.

It’s safe to say that American history devotees will be in pure bliss at the National Constitution Center. And for those who are cynical, give it a try. Though you will be learning, it will be less of a lesson and more of a memory. And above all, you will most likely leave with a great appreciation for every battle that was fought, every life lost, every struggle, heartache, and strong devoted soul that made our country what it is today; and you will be proud.

Kerri Skrip is a journalism student at Luzerne County Community College.