When you’re immersed in the minutiae of your life – How many unread emails are sitting in my inbox right now? What am I making for dinner tonight? Is Ted Lasso overrated? – it can be hard to appreciate how much you’re changing all the time.
A new exhibit at the Mercer Museum, in Doylestown, makes that basic fact clear through the prism of hundreds of things. Stuff, if you rather. For the last 20 years, the Bucks County Historical Society, which operates the museum, has been collecting objects, images, and documents in an effort to illuminate the people, history, and culture of Bucks County.
Found, Gifted, Saved! The Mercer Museum Collects Local History is the culmination of that massive undertaking. Think of it like the largest time capsule you’ve ever seen. The exhibit, which runs through April 10, 2022, is divided into a series of groupings that are intended to suggest themes that range chronologically and geographically across the county’s past.
Here’s a sampling:
Made in Bucks: objects crafted, manufactured, and marketed in Bucks, some of them dating as far back as the 18th century.
A Diverse People: artifacts, documents, and images that, together, create a mosaic of Bucks County’s racial, ethnic, and gender diversity through the centuries, including the arrival of immigrants.
What We Wore: head-, foot-, and outerwear from various periods.
Which Side Are You On?: political campaign and election materials, labor union artifacts, and items connected with various social and environmental movements.
Wish You Were Here: Visiting Bucks County: stuff related to Bucks County’s long history of luring tourists, day-trippers, artists, and celebrities, especially during the last century.
A section of the exhibit will be constantly changing. It’ll be dedicated to the things the staff find the most interesting and evocative among the sprawling collection.
“A huge challenge for museums collecting local history is to adequately represent – in objects, images, and documents – the full complexity of a community’s past and the diversity of its people,” says Cory Amsler, Bucks County Historical Society’s vice president of Collections and Interpretation. “We hope this exhibit launches a conversation with visitors about what we have been able to capture, what we have missed, and whether the things we’ve acquired help tell the stories that are most important and relevant to us as Bucks County residents.”
Found, Gifted, Saved! Is included with general admission to the museum, which is available via timed-entry slots. You can buy tickets here.
The Mercer Museum itself is a sight worth seeing. Housed in a historic castle in the heart of Doylestown, the museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, celebrates the legacy of Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930), who was a revered archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramicist, and scholar.
In addition to its rotating exhibits, the museum also features a permanent collection of more than 50,000 pre-Industrial tools, which is considered to be one of the world’s most comprehensive portraits of American material culture.