Current Exhibits

Patriots & Pirates

Discover the city of Philadelphia’s connection to the founding of the United States Navy. The new, permanent exhibition features curated objects never, or rarely, seen by the public—highlighting the little-told story of America’s conflict with pirates. At the center of Patriots & Pirates is a full-size waterline model of Diligence of 1797. Climb aboard Schooner Diligence, a stationary 102 foot vessel with masts soaring above a 62 foot deck, constructed by staff and volunteers from Workshop on the Watera traditional boat shop located inside the Museum. Patriots & Pirates is a unique exhibition developed by Chief Curator Craig Bruns.

Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River

Tides of Freedom: African Presence on the Delaware River features recently uncovered artifacts from the Museum's collection, gripping first-person accounts and interactive elements, providing visitors with opportunities for discovery and communication. Using four key moments in Philadelphia's history representing the themes of Enslavement, Emancipation, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights, Tides of Freedom urges visitors both to bear witness to a story central to Philadelphia and American history, and to think about the meaning of "freedom" both historically and in today's world. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage in an ongoing discussion via social media at several points in the exhibition.

Rescues on the River

Explore the disasters that unfolded as the Delaware developed into a watery highway for trade and commerce while experiencing the misfortunes, the miracles and the lessons learned. Rescues on the River will also introduce historical prints and newspaper headlines that were used to broadcast and memorize these terrible marine catastrophes. Visitors to the exhibition can also take home a free 20-page tabloid keepsake, produced in partnership with the Philadelphia Weekly, which includes illustrations and more details about some of the events featured in the exhibition. 




Titanic Philadelphians

Titanic Philadelphians spotlights the personal lives of the Philadelphians directly affected by the ship disaster. The intimate exhibit is told through the accounts and stories of the 40 plus Philadelphians that sailed on the Titanic during her maiden voyage.







Bound For Philadelphia

Signaled by boat horns and whistles, visitors chart a course for Penn's Landing. Learn the hazards of navigation as you travel beneath a three-story replica of the Ben Franklin Bridge and make your way along a carpeted Delaware River. View the charts and navigational instruments that helped guide early Delaware River travelers.







Coming To America

Experience traveling in a steerage compartment first-hand as you climb into the gray bunks that many immigrants called home while they made their way to Philadelphia's Washington Avenue -- the fourth largest immigration port of its time. View photos of first class dining accommodations and try out model steerage dining compartments. Hear the oral histories of actual travelers.





Philadelphia and the China Trade

Celebrate Philadelphia's historical maritime connection with China as Independence Seaport Museum examines Philadelphia's role in the China Trade that began in Philadelphia in the late 1700s. Discover the remarkable similarities between our own Delaware River and China's Pearl River and their respective ports, learn what items were traded between the first colonies and China, see the men, both from Philadelphia and China, who ventured into this new territory of trade opportunities, and more!






On the Rivers, On the Shores: Small Craft of the Delaware River Valley

Further explore the region's marine history and culture through Independence Seaport Museum's newest permanent exhibition, On the Rivers, On the Shores: Small Craft of the Delaware River Valley featuring small craft indigenous to the area. The exhibit which opened on July 6, 1998, includes an 1885 Merryman Lifeboat used by the U.S. Life Saving Service, a single racing shell used for rowing on the Schuylkill River and a rare 1910 Atlantic City Catboat - one of only 40 manufactured in the world.

Next to On the Rivers, On the Shores exhibition is The What Floats Your Boat? exhibition. It is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Explore the science, history and art of boats and boat building in this interactive exhibit. Experiment with water, wind and boat shapes. Remember all that talk about displacement, gravity, buoyancy and that guy, Bernoulli, and his principles? Rediscover it here as this family-friendly exhibit encourages visitors to not only consider the scientific aspect of boats, but to also appreciate their historic and artistic facets, from design to construction to actual sailing.




Visit the Independence Seaport Museum to see our objects documenting the critical role of navigation technology to maritime history. Our collection includes sextants, compasses, maps, and numerous other navigation objects from the colonial era to the present. See how these objects made it easier to traverse the often difficult Delaware River.