By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Mummers Museum in South Philadelphia is in the process of getting a facelift.
Mummery is a Philadelphia tradition that dates back more than 400 years, and its history is as diverse as the costumes that revelers wear on New Year’s Day.
Located at the corner of 2nd Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, the Mummers Museum is the keeper of mummers’ tradition.
“Since we opened in 1976 we have costumes, we have souvenir program books, we have recordings, we have photographs,” notes executive director Palma Lucas.
But after September 11th, Lucas says, the Mummers Museum began losing revenue. And when the recession hit a couple of years ago, it became even harder to generate the $275,000 it takes each year to run the building.
Eventually wear and tear took its toll, and parts of the building, especially outside, fell into disrepair, making it a hazard to hold summer string band concerts — which had become a South Philadelphia tradition — outdoors.
“It was not just for cosmetic reasons, it was for necessity,” says Lucas. “It was becoming too dangerous for our people that were walking in the area to come to the concerts.”
Lucas says nearly $120,000 in private donations from both corporations and individuals, coupled with elbow grease from volunteers, means a fresh coat of paint, new flat-screen TVs, renovated bathrooms, and repairs to an outdoor concert yard.
Lucas says the mummers’ community is hoping that the upgrades will mean a new stream of revenue for the museum.
“Hopefully with the changes and with the economy, we’ll see more visits,” says Lucas. “There’s always hope,” adding that the mummers community will not give up.
“It’s pride,” she says. “And that’s what really keeps us pushing.”
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