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New Exhibit Opens On Famed Polish Patriot

Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial

National Park News

Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Philadelphia has opened a new permanent exhibit to celebrate the life and legacy of this hero of two continents.

On Friday, March 20th, guests including officials from Poland gathered for a special ceremony just across the street from the memorial in historic St. Peters Church. Deputy superintendent Darla Sidles provided an official welcome and talked about Kosciuszko’s important link to 18th century Philadelphia. 

One highlight of the new exhibits is a large artifact case featuring objects from the Kosciuszko collection of the Historical Museum of the City of Cracow in Poland. Museum director Michal Niezabitowski and curator Klaudia Kaczmarczyk traveled from Poland as the park’s special guests.  They presented official greetings and gifts, including a commemorate Kosciuszko medal, to the park. Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by actor Steve Edenbo) shared thoughts about his good friend Kosciuszko. Noted historian and author Gary Nash discussed his most recent book, Friends of Liberty, which features Thaddeus Kosciuszko.  A reception sponsored by the Friends of Independence concluded the celebration.   

The new exhibits replace the original ones installed in 1976. The four new interpretative themes are Kosciuszko’s lifelong struggle for liberty for all, his military engineering expertise, how he is memorialized throughout the world, and why he returned to Philadelphia. An interactive kiosk on the first floor allows visitors to locate monuments, cities, ships, even mountains named in Kosciuszko’s honor. This AV unit includes a virtual tour of the second floor bedroom rented by Kosciuszko.  In his bedroom, new spotlights identify objects in the room associated with the Polish patriot, including a tomahawk like the one given to him by Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Nation. Nearby exhibits tell the little known story of Kosciuszko’s will, which intended to leave his estate to free and educate enslaved African Americans.

Loaned artifacts from the Cracow Museum’s Kosciuszko collection include a pistol and sword, a variety of 19th century paintings, and one of the three remaining original copies of Kosciuszko’s famous 1794 call to arms against Russian rule. The museum collection is on loan for two years. The park is arranging to borrow Kosciuszko artifacts from other museums in Poland, including the National Museum of Poland.

The Harpers’ Ferry Design Center served as the project manager for the exhibits, which include touchable sections and audio description for visitors with visual impairments. A new Junior Ranger program, featuring a travel truck loaded with reproduction items that Kosciuszko would have packed during the American Revolution, is available for younger visitors.

The memorial, the smallest unit in the National Park Service, is now open Wednesday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/thko



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