Current Exhibits

Light on Steel on Water

Take in new views of the Philadelphia Navy Yard in our Waterways Gallery! Light on Steel on Water features 13 paintings from Wayne Art Center created during the 13th Annual Wayne Plein Air Festival held last May. Some of the participating artists converged on the Philadelphia Navy Yard one of the days to capture ships docked in the Delaware River.

The paintings featured in this exhibit depict ships at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at the Navy Yard, formerly known as the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which closed in 1995. Some of the ships featured are reserved, or "mothballed," for possible reactivation while others will be disposed through other means. Upon first glance, the artists have seemingly favored the industrial naval ships over the natural vistas of the river. However, the play of light and atmosphere envelops the river and ships, challenging us to see them as a whole. 


The British Mistake

On view through March 2020

Forgotten are the events that brought embarrassment to a king.

Spring 1778. King George III ordered the evacuation of the city his forces captured just months earlier at a great price. Alongside the evacuation, the monarch offered peace negotiations to discuss ending the war and co-existing in relative harmony. But there was one glaring omission: The colonies’ independence. What would you do if you were in their situation? Accept the terms? Or keep fighting?

How did we get here, you might ask, especially given the string of losses the Continental Army suffered in 1777? Step back in time with Independence Seaport Museum and Fort Mifflin as we present The British Mistake. The British Mistake explores an overlooked but vivid chapter of the British poor handling of the early years of the Revolutionary War.

Against all odds, Pennsylvania Navy, Fort Mercer, and Fort Mifflin sustained by Continental and Militia forces held back the British Navy from taking control of the Delaware River for an astonishing 90 days. Their unexpected success led to the destruction of the British ship-of-the-line HMS Augusta, and confounded the delivery of much needed winter supplies, threatening the occupation of the early United States capital, Philadelphia. The Battle of Fort Mifflin set in motion a series of events that turned the tides of war in America’s favor.

On display in the exhibit, visitors will see a rare fragment of an actual chevaux-de-frise, which was discovered in 2007 in the Delaware River, close to Fort Mifflin. This type of underwater defense blockade was designed to puncture British Navy hull as they attempted to reach Philadelphia. Also included will be an interactive fort experience, eyewitness accounts, and seldom seen artifacts from the Museum’s collections, Philadelphia History Museum and the Arader Galleries.


River Alive!

Did you know that 15 million people drink water from the Delaware River? That’s 5% of the U.S. population!

Dive into all things water as you discover the wonders and challenges of our regional waterways. Want to know how the river connects the wilderness to the city? Play along on our high-tech River Continuum Wall for the answer. Ever seen a catfish up close? Now you can in our Fisharium. 

Swim on over to experience River Alive! and make sure to use #RiverAlive when sharing your visit on social media to connect with other visitors and the Museum. 

This exhibit is made possible by The William Penn Foundation.


Patriots & Pirates

Discover the city of Philadelphia’s connection to the founding of the United States Navy. The 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. 


World War I: USS Olympia

Though most famous as Commodore Dewey's flagship in the Spanish-American War, Cruiser Olympia served military and humanitarian roles in the U.S. Navy into the 1920s. Explore Cruiser Olympia's contributions in four chapters in World War I: USS Olympia, a semi-permanent exhibit at Independence Seaport Museum. The exhibit features rare historical mementos from several of Olympia's crew members, highlighting their experiences and reactions to the war including photographs, an engraved trombone, a diary, and a single dried flower from the solemn transport of the Unknown Soldier home to America in 1921.