PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Independence National Historical Park officials stood together this morning with  representatives from the City of Philadelphia and the Pew Charitable Trust in the shadow of what will be Philadelphia’s newest exhibit about Ben Franklin.

When completed, the new Benjamin Franklin Museum will be underground — below the area known as “Franklin Court,” just off Fourth and Market Streets.

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“It is going to be a world-class museum with interactive exhibits as well as artifacts,” says Independence National Historical Park spokeswoman Jane Cowley (photo below).  “It’s about an 18-month project, so we are breaking ground hoping to open in 2013.”

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(Independence Historic Park spokeswoman Jane Cowley stands with an artist's rendering of the new Benjamin Franklin Museum. Credit: Michelle Durham)



Why underground?

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“Where we are standing right now is the space where Franklin’s house was — we are not going to disturb that space,” she explained.

The exhibits will be divided up into different rooms that reflect various aspects of his personality and his life.

“He was an inventor, so we will have an exhibit displaying his experiments with lightning,” Cawley told KYW Newsradio this morning.  “He was a statesman, so we’ll have exhibits where you can learn about his role in international diplomacy.   And the culminating experience is a library.”

Cowley says the project would not have been possible without a combination of private and public funding.

Construction starts next month.  The Franklin buildings on Market Street (including the Franklin post office) will remain open, but the current museum and Chestnut Street entrance to Franklin Court will be closed.

Reported by Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio 1060


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