Spring Arts - Museums: Cerebral pursuits

Costume drama: See what Lady Sybil and the others wore on "Downton Abbey" at Winterthur.
Costume drama: See what Lady Sybil and the others wore on "Downton Abbey" at Winterthur. (NICK BRIGGS)
Posted: January 27, 2014

Spring in the Philadelphia area will feature ongoing, multifaceted festivals, new buildings stuffed with new exhibits, and a wealth of often eclectic offerings at institutions of all kinds.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts will mount an unusual seven-month festival commemorating Octavius V. Catto, the martyred 19th-century African American activist, and the struggle for civil rights.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is undertaking a year-long celebration of the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

The Franklin Institute will unveil its new Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion with the debut of a huge permanent exhibit. Museumgoers to non-art museums around the region will find a variety of exhibitions, from a big show on the role of Jews in baseball to a community exhibit on the astonishing urban transformation of Northern Liberties.

Plus, the fourth Philadelphia Science Festival will take place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway April 25 to May 3.

- Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer culture writer

Philadelphia Freedom Festival. The Mann Center for the Performing Arts honors the legacy of O.V. Catto with a festival of concerts, workshops, and panels around the city. A highlight will be Sing Freedom Sing!!!, a commissioned piece by composer Uri Caine featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, a 300-voice chorus, and praise dancers at the Mann on July 19. (February to July, 215-546-7900 or www.manncenter.org/philadelphia-freedom-festival.)

Shakespeare for All Time. A complete, exceedingly rare Shakespeare First Folio is the centerpiece of this exhibit by the Philadelphia Free Library Rare Book Department. Shakespeare-related performances, readings, and activities will take place across the city throughout the year celebrating the Bard at 450. (Through May 31, 215-686-5322 or www.freelibrary.org.)

Your Brain. The Franklin Institute's new 8,500-square-foot permanent exhibit will lead visitors into a world of neural transmission, cognitive dissonance, and processing, flashing lights, and interactive experiences exploring the brain and neuroscience. The exhibit opens the Karabots Pavilion in June. (215-448-1200 or www2.fi.edu.)

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American. This large exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History weaves together the history of American sport, leisure, and national identity with the story of Jewish immigration and integration into American life. (March 13 to Oct. 26, 215-923-3811 or www.nmajh.org.)

Northern Liberties: From World's Workshop to Hipster Mecca and the People In Between. The Philadelphia History Museum traces the unlikely metamorphosis of an old city neighborhood through an exhibition of photographs, artifacts, video interviews, slide shows, and recorded and written reminiscences. (Feb. 13 to mid-May, 215-685-4830 or www.philadelphiahistory.org/visit.)

Networking Before the Net: Sharing Information in the Pre-Digital Age. The Rosenbach Museum & Library asks: Has the Internet truly changed social interaction? This exhibition, which opened Jan. 19, compares current digital social media platforms with their analog precursors, managing to include a 1780 treasonous broadside from Benedict Arnold along the way. (Through June 16, 215-732-1600 or www.rosenbach.org.)

Costumes of Downton Abbey. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library presents 40 costumes and accessories worn upstairs and downstairs on the period drama television series. (March 1 to Jan. 4, 2015, 800-448-3883 or www.winterthur.org.)

Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello. National Constitution Center explores Jefferson, the Hemings family, and the intimate and corrosive nature of slavery. (April 9 to Oct. 19, 215-409-6600 or constitutioncenter.org.)

Philadelphia and World War I. On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the Pennsylvania Historical Society will display war-related papers, posters, photographs, and letters. More material will be posted online at wwwionline.org, part of Home Before the Leaves Fall: A Great War Centennial Exposition, a citywide digital effort. (June 24 to Aug. 15, 215-732-6200 or hsp.org.)

Birds of Paradise. Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University presents photographs, video, soundscapes, and specimens showing the extraordinary plumage, behavior, and mating dances of New Guinea's unique birds. (May 3 to Sept. 1, 215-299-1000 or www.ansp.org.)

Native American Voices: The People - Here and Now. A new five-year exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology features contemporary American Indian voices - artists, activists, journalists, scholars, community leaders - in audio and video. More than 250 objects, interactive elements, and art are incorporated. (March 1 to 2019, 215-898-4000 or www.penn.museum.)

That's So Gay: Outing Early America. Items from the Library Company of Philadelphia's archives reveal the gay experience in American history. Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde in America, and sculptor Harriet Hosmer are prominently discussed. (Feb. 10 to Oct. 17, 215-546-3181 or www.librarycompany.org.)  

SS United States: Charting a Course for America's Flagship. In conjunction with the SS United States Conservancy, the Independence Seaport Museum will tell the story of what was once the fastest passenger ship, now docked and decaying on the Delaware amid efforts to save it. (March 7 to Sept. 14, 215-413-8655 or www.phillyseaport.org.)

Unnatural History. At the Academy of Natural Sciences, photographs by Lori Nix will poke a little fun at natural history museums. Animals, "facts," and science itself just don't seem quite right in her often-funny images. (April 19 to Aug. 2, 215-299-1000 or www.ansp.org.)

Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia. In a new permanent exhibit at the Mutter Museum, artifacts, anatomical specimens, and illustrations tell the story of illness, injury, and the transformation of health care during the Civil War. Open now. (215-563-3737 or www.collegeofphysicians.org/mutter-museum.)

50 Greatest Photographs by National Geographic. This Franklin Institute exhibit showcases famous images published in the magazine, from Steve McCurry's Afghan girl to Nick Nichols' photograph of Jane Goodall and a chimpanzee. (On view now, extended through June, 215-448-1200 or www2.fi.edu.)

Circus! Science Under the Big Top. At the Franklin Institute! High-wire balancing, feats of strength, body contortions, costumes of all kinds! Secrets revealed! (June to Sept. 1, 215-448-1200 or www2.fi.edu.)

101 Inventions That Changed the World. Franklin Institute. From the discovery of fire to the invention of the Internet - the Franklin Institute will have it all, or at least a lot. (June to Oct. 26, 215-448-1200 or www2.fi.edu.)

Remembering Tragedy: Commemoration and Memorialization in America. National Museum of American Jewish History. On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the museum will host a discussion about tragedy and memory in America, featuring James E. Young, director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. (April 27, 4 p.m., 215-923-3811 or www.nmajh.org.)

Rededication of Silent Sentry. The bronze sentinel watched over graves of Union veterans at Mount Moriah Cemetery until it was stolen by thieves over 40 years ago. Recovered and repaired, the statue will be rededicated at Laurel Hill Cemetery in a ceremony. (May 25, noon, 215-228-8200 or www.thelaurelhillcemetery.org.)

The Echoes of Their Wings: The Life and Legacy of the Passenger Pigeon. Wagner Free Institute of Science. They once filled the sky, blacking out the sun in 19th-century America. But now these birds are extinct. What happened? The Wagner will host a talk, illustrated presentation, and book signing by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. (Jan. 30, 6 p.m., 215-763-6529 or www.wagnerfreeinstitute.org.)

Up a Tree: Genealogy Charts From HSP's Collection. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will display some of its most historic and decorative family trees and genealogical charts, including an 18th-century chart of the Franklin family showing Benjamin Franklin and his 16 siblings. (March 4 to April 18, 215-732-6200 or hsp.org.)

Drawn and Quartered: Political Cartoons From the Collections. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will exhibit cartoons from the colonial period to the 20th century. (April 22 to June 20, 215-732-6200 or hsp.org.)

Examining Philadelphia's Opportunity Gap: African Americans and Education. Stenton will host a discussion of the history of the Philadelphia School District and its impact on the African American community. (Feb. 15, 1 p.m., 215-329-7312 or stenton.org.)

Bishop Richard Allen's Living Legacy in American History. Cliveden's ongoing talk and discussion program will feature the Rev. Dr. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. (Feb. 20, 7 to 9 p.m., 215-848-1777 or www.cliveden.org.)

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