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Art expansion: Bucks County's Mercer Museum opens a multi-million dollar wing

Located in Bucks County's Doylestown for nearly a century now, the Mercer Museum is so highly regarded as a cultural and historic institution that it was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1985. For decades, schoolchildren, amateur anthropologists and tourists from throughout the Philadelphia area and beyond have studied the many thousands of handmade tools and cultural artifacts on display there--all of them objects that were created prior to the Industrial Revolution.

But because the museum has literally run out of space, and has no room for traveling exhibits, the Mercer has seemingly always had the unfortunate reputation of being the sort of place visitors experience only once in a lifetime.

"A lot of people would say, 'Oh, I visited you in fourth grade, and I haven't been back since,'" says Gayle Shupack, a museum spokesperson. "So we really needed to give people a reason to come back again and again, to visit us," she adds.

That reason, it turns out, is a new $12.5 million, 13,000-square-foot wing that is being unveiled to the museum-going public on June 18. And although a series of traveling exhibitions have already been booked to appear in the new addition, the wing's inaugural show will actually be a rare exhibit featuring items from the Mercer's own 40,000-piece collection. Some of them have never before been publicly shown.

The new wing is also a green-friendly space. Recycled blue jeans were used as insulation, for instance, and the restrooms feature water-conserving fixtures. "It was our chance to come up to the 21st century," Shupack says.

A 1,000-square-foot education space known as the Learning Center will also be located in the new wing, and the changing exhibition gallery clocks in at 3,500 square feet. During the wing's opening day, the first 100 visitors to the museum, says Shupack, will be admitted free-of-charge.

Source: Gayle Shupack, Mercer Museum
Writer: Dan Eldridge

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