Museum of the American Revolution
New perspective on the American experiment
Opened in 2017, The Museum of the American Revolution is designed for 21st century citizens. Its immersive galleries, interactive exhibits and theatrical vignettes add nuance and diverse perspectives to familiar stories of the Revolution, while also offering an accessible and relevant experience for a breadth of audiences. Located steps from Philadelphia’s iconic Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking curiosity, providing context, and inspiring a new look at America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government.
AREA 17’s partnership with the Museum began just before COVID-19 forced its temporary closure: Our original engagement to bring a robust version of the Museum’s unique, in-person experience online and extend its educational reach to a wider audience suddenly gained unprecedented urgency.
The resulting rearchitected website and interactive microsites streamline and enhance visitors’ digital access to the Museum’s mission, expertise, curated experiences, and artifacts. All the sites are efficiently managed in a centralized implementation of Twill, AREA 17’s open source CMS for Laravel.
When we were first introduced to the Museum, brand communication was inconsistent across most channels and drained of its vital mission. The website’s refresh updated and enhanced almost every brand element to reflect the Museum’s conceptual and experiential differentiators. In addition to prioritizing imagery and expanding its palette, the site’s new look and feel was inspired by the scale and drama of the Museum’s architecture — an airy, Enlightenment-influenced atrium contrasting with darker, spot-lighted galleries — which welcomes all visitors and envelopes them in rich narrative.
The primary need of the Museum’s digital expansion was to translate two touchscreen experiences from the galleries into microsites that could be accessed by students and educators anywhere. With an emphasis on the tablet experience, we adapted the stories of revolutionary figures into responsive microsites that not only broaden the Museum’s educational reach, but significantly expand the Museum’s on-going capacity for digital storytelling.
The Museum produces a deep volume of content about and in service of programming, exhibitions, collections, education, and more. But as a newcomer to a crowded museum ecosystem, the Museum’s site struggled with quickly introducing first-time visitors to its core offering. AREA 17’s strategy shifted the site’s taxonomic focus from content types to activating visitor engagement. A minimal main navigation removes wayfinding friction and responds to a visitor’s goals, whether planning their visit, looking for a lesson plan, or making a donation.
With reductions in staff and greater demand from remote learners pressing on Museum resources, we doubled down on engineering for simplicity, flexibility, and replicability in all aspects of the project. The shared Twill backend allows Museum staff to easily update content, introduce new sections to the website, and publish new interactive microsites and virtual exhibits as needed while ensuring brand integrity across all experiences.