Drexel University is in talks with the Philadelphia History Museum to acquire more than 100,000 artifacts from the museum, which suspended operations in June 2018.
If Drexel obtains the collection, the university will digitally catalog the museum's 100,000 artifacts. Some items may also be circulated to public venues such as libraries, shopping malls, and airports. Pieces will also be available to other institutions as loans or new exhibitions.
"We’re interested in how we can get as much as possible out into the city of Philadelphia," Rosalind Remer, Drexel’s vice provost overseeing the plan, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Remer added that Drexel seeks to make the collections available "not just to museums.”
The Philadelphia History Museum is designated by the city's governing charter as the official museum for objects made and owned in Philadelphia. In June 2018, the museum suspended operations because of decreased financial support from the city. Its artifacts were moved from the historic museum building on Seventh Street to a climate-controlled facility, and the museum's last staff member retired at the end of January.
“Drexel stepped to the plate and offered to become a repository for the collection, to go through the collection to see what is relevant and what is not, to care for the collection, and to become a lending library for it,” David Rasner, president of the museum’s board of trustees, told the Inquirer.
Some Philadelphians are concerned that the potential plan will lead to artifacts being sold. Since 2003, the Philadelphia History Museum has sold between 5,000 and 6,000 artifacts to raise money and free storage space.
Remer said no historically significant pieces will be removed from the inventory. She added that Drexel will adhere to the strictest guidelines by the American Association of Museums, which allows sales only to fund acquisitions or direct care of a collection.
Drexel's proposal is currently being evaluated by the state attorney general's Office of Charitable Trusts. The plan will be presented on Feb. 27 at a public meeting in the National Constitution Center.