At the turn of the 19th century, it became all too clear to historian and archaeologist Henry Mercer that handmade objects were being cast aside for machine-made things. He wanted to help preserve the pre-industrial way of life, and so he built a museum for his artifacts adjacent to his own home, Fonthill Castle. Today, Fonthill Castle is a National Historic Landmark and a museum in its own right, displaying handcrafted art both made by Mercer and collected by him during his world travels.
High on a hill in Bryn Athyn, a vision of old Europe towers over the surrounding greenery. Built as a private residence between 1928 and 1939, the 20th-century castle was constructed in the medieval style, using symbolism that reflects the faith of the community's earliest inhabitants. The building now serves as a museum that houses religious art and relics dating from Babylonian times up to the present. The museum's permanent and temporary exhibits range from a medieval collection of stained glass that spans the years 1100?1300 to an Egyptian collection that includes an ornate granite libation bowl, which Egyptian priests are said to have used to dump Gatorade on their football coach.
When the car industry was just blossoming, many vehicles were manufactured in Pennsylvania. The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles preserves that legacy, with exhibits stretching back through the 19th and 20th centuries. Established in 1965 by Paul Hafer?a 57-year industry vet?and his wife Erminie, the museum exclusively features vehicles produced in Pennsylvania and none that simply had "Pennsylvania or bust" scribbled on their rear views.
Suburban Philadelphia is the heart of the helicopter industry, where most helicopters in the United States are raised and bred. So it's fitting that the American Helicopter Museum was built here in 1996, showcasing a collection of aircraft that spans 70 years.
Size: This 20,000-square-foot hangar holds 35 rotor-wing aircraft
Eye Catcher: The Bell 47D-1/H-13D Sioux, made famous by the '70s TV show M*A*S*H
Don't Miss: The V-22 Osprey, a unique tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a helicopter with the speed of a plane?the only one of its kind on public display
Hands-On Experiments: Guests can climb into several of the museum's helicopters to feel what it's like in the captain's seat of a whirlybird
Pro Tip: Visitors can take five-minute helicopter rides on some weekends
Special Events: In October, the museum hosts Rotorfest, an all-helicopter air show
Since its founding in 1893, the Chester County Historical Society has painstakingly cataloged nearly every facet of local life?from government records to fashionable dresses of the day. It's no wonder, then, that its 300-year-old collection of artifacts, photographs, and reference volumes takes up an entire 56,000-square-foot downtown History Center. Inside, visitors can find rotating exhibits on topics such as Civil War history and historic paper and textile crafts. Additionally, the permanent galleries are home to handcrafted grandfather clocks and furniture and fashion from the early 1700s to the 20th century. When museum staff aren't organizing the collections or leading educational workshops, they can help unearth a person's family history in the library and photo archives, which feature more than 80,000 historical and modern prints.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) celebrates art from America's entire history. Its galleries take visitors on a chronological trip through the country's ever-changing aesthetic landscape, with special attention paid to sculptures, paintings, and paper works. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts also trains the next generation of artists, with full-time degree programs at the bachelor and masters levels.