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A museum that even makes The Constitution 'awesome'
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
PHILADELPHIA — When was the last time you heard a kid shout "Awesome!" inside a museum?
At the National Constitution Center, it happens. Even grown-ups have fun.
You can try on black robes like those worn by Supreme Court judges. Why black? Because we didn't want red like in England, explains one sign.
You can take the test immigrants must pass before they can become U.S. citizens, then look at pictures of glowing faces of new citizens as they are being sworn in by a federal judge.
You can "vote" in voting booths.
You can even be "sworn in" as president of the United States — standing behind a podium with the presidential seal as you swear to uphold the Constitution while a camera projects your image on a big screen, making it look as if you really are being sworn in as president (although at the real thing, you might wear something other than a T-shirt).
The National Constitution Center, in Independence Mall in downtown Philadelphia, is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday, until 6 p.m. Saturday, every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check it out at www.constitutioncenter.org or call 215-409-6600.
Afterward, you can sit in Ben Franklin's lap. OK, it's a bronze Ben Franklin. He's in the museum's final hall with bronze statues of other signers of the U.S. Constitution. Youngsters crawl on the statues' laps to have their pictures snapped by parents.
Visitors are welcomed to this compelling museum by a live multimedia show, "Freedom Rising," hosted by a narrator who stands under a spotlight in the center of the circular arena theater. The actor — ours sounded like James Earl Jones — talks about our forefathers and our rights and the immigrants who created this diverse country, while images accompanied by music are projected all around the theater. Visitors feel washed with patriotism.
Within the museum are other attractions. One is a multimedia show for children about the Bill of Rights. Beginning with "This Land Is Your Land," it includes talking figures from U.S. currency: Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and, as the narration states, "that other president no one can remember." That would be James Madison.
And there are temporary exhibits such as "Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers," which runs through Aug. 20. Assembled by the Smithsonian, it focuses on 35 athletes in 17 sports, from those who broke records to Olympians to household names as well as those who hurdled barriers of a different sort. Included in the exhibit are memorabilia from Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, Michael Jordan, Billie Jean King, Lance Armstrong and the Miracle on Ice U.S. Hockey Team.
The center, in Independence Mall in downtown Philadelphia, is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday, until 6 p.m. Saturday, every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check it out at www.constitutioncenter.org or call (215) 409-6600.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company