Long-Awaited Exhibition to Open on Oct. 29 at Chester County History Center

Image of Conor Hepp via Bill Rettew, MediaNews Group.

The Chester County History Center (CCHC) will open its new core exhibits to the public with a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, Oct. 29. The project that has been in the works for 10 years.

CCHC has a new president, a new name, a renewed emphasis on inclusion, and a new way of safely visiting in order to comply with social-distancing guidelines. The ribbon-cutting also marks the reopening of the CCHC after it closed in March due to COVID-19.

The new exhibit fills the second-floor galleries of both museum buildings with the pivotal stories that reflect the growth, conflicts, achievements, and critical issues that are at the heart of both Chester County’s story and America’s story.

“These impeccable new galleries have been designed to not only share the rich stories of our county and nation, but to also engage with each visitor,” said CCHC President Conor Hepp. “With such a beautifully constructed core exhibition, Chester County History Center is position perfectly to serve our community.”

Becoming Chester County is the first major re-installation of the History Center’s core exhibition in more than two decades. It flows chronologically, punctuated by the major events of each era and told in part through encounters with key people who contributed to each unfolding story. The exhibition is designed for all ages, including families, children, adults, and school groups. It includes fresh new exhibit techniques that invite discovery and interaction and technology-aided exploration.

The exhibition explores many key themes, including:

  • the Battle of Brandywine and its impact on daily lives in Chester County
  • the riveting stories of the Underground Railroad and ongoing social justice movements
  • the county’s agricultural richness, cultural contributions, and numerous industrial innovations

Throughout, the exhibition looks at the people who have been “history makers” over time, concluding with current leaders in all phases of regional life.

“This exhibition combines the stories of local people with the extraordinary artifacts, manuscripts, and photographs of CCHC that document the human experience of this place,” said Ellen Endslow, CCHC’s Director of Collections/Curator. “The exceptional team of community members, advisors, and staff delved into primary resources to share these remarkable experiences.”

Becoming Chester County has been in the works for several years. Designed in conjunction with the award-winning design firm Quatrefoil Associates, the exhibition moved into the construction and fabrication phase a year ago with the expertise of the local firm Pancoast & Clifford and Art Guild Inc. Fabricators from West Deptford, N.J.

The COVID-19 shutdown postponed the completion and opening for several months. The History Center is now poised to reopen gradually with the exhibition becoming the centerpiece of public and school programming. The staff will also continue to offer social media and online highlights that expand the exhibit themes and engage distant audiences.

“Through this remarkable new exhibition, the History Center has reimagined itself as a visitor friendly place for learning and appreciating our storied past,” said Jim Sargent, Chair of CCHC’s Board of Directors. “As a county and a people, we have much of which to be proud.

“From the Quaker traditions, to the Underground Railway, to the waves of immigration from all over the world who have transformed our lives, to the individual stories, such as G. Raymond Rettew, the West Chester chemist who cracked the code to mass production of penicillin, saving 250,000 lives in WWII, there is a great deal of inspiration in the new exhibit. We hope all who yearn for examples of the greatness of mankind will come visit and become members of the History Center.”

Special arrangements are being made to protect the safety of all visitors, including the need to make reservations and the close monitoring of numbers in the gallery.

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