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Making history a fun experience

Lower Moyamensing resident Rebecca Franco teaches kids about the American Revolution. Contributed photo

It didn’t take long for Rebecca Franco to fall in love with Philadelphia’s place in history.

After moving from Connecticut to the city two decades ago, the Lower Moyamensing resident is fully entrenched in sharing her love with others as the family programs manager at the Museum of the American Revolution.

She started her new role just a month before the pandemic, so she’s been beyond excited to welcome people back to the museum now that restrictions have eased and families are itching to visit the treasures of the city.

“It turns out it was a really interesting time to start a new job,” Franco said with a laugh. “I had just started to learn everybody’s name and know where all the copiers were, then everything closed.”

Now it’s open.

Franco’s job is something she loves — presenting American history to families and making it a fun experience. She runs the museum’s interactive discovery center on the lower level and although her work is focused mainly on engaging children’s interests, she knows the love of history easily spreads.

“I like to say it’s for families because people think it’s for kids, but when parents get down there they see it’s really cool,” Franco said. 

The museum recently opened its Flags and Founding Documents exhibition, which will run through Sept. 6. It showcases dozens of rare American flags alongside historic early state constitutions and the first printing of the proposed U.S. Constitution of 1787 to shed light on the triumphs and tensions that the United States faced as new states joined the Union.

The exhibition is a collaboration of flags borrowed from Jeff Bridgman of American Antiques while documents are on loan from the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation following their exhibition from the New York Historical Society.

“Our fantastic exhibition team has put those two collections together to really create this amazing narrative,” Franco said. “My job is to go through and figure out how to take everything we’re talking about and make it interesting to kids and families.”

The Museum of the American Revolution is located at 101 S. 3rd St.and is open Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Franco said there’s been a noticeable uptick in visitors as the school year wraps up.

“Now that school’s out and you’re allowed to leave your house, we’ve seen a lot of people who decided they want to take a trip to Philly and they are seeing all the sights,” Franco said. “We feel very lucky that we are on their lists to come visit.”

Franco first visited 20 years ago as she attended the University of the Arts for her undergrad and decided to stay. She worked previously at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial on Catharine Street in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philly before switching to the city’s Historic District. 

“I started there in the fall of 2001,” she said. “I fell in love with the city and never left. I’ve always been a history fan or history nerd for pretty much my whole life so this was a good crossover for me.”

And where better to teach about the American Revolution than the birthplace of the nation? Franco preaches that there is so much more to learn than what has been printed in textbooks.

“If you come in and learn about it in the museum, you’re going to find out there were so many stories and people that we haven’t learned about in school. In school, we tend to focus on the top three names and dates. You’ll find there are a lot more people involved, especially in Philadelphia. And all of it is still relevant today. What we really try to teach kids is that they are actually the future of the American Revolution and our country’s experiment in self governance. That experiment is not over.”

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