Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is a 30,000-square-foot museum facility operated by the Lehigh County Historical Society, showcasing exhibits related to the social and cultural history of the Lehigh Valley region in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Lehigh County Historical Society was founded in 1904 for the purposes of collecting and preserving artifacts and documents related to the social and cultural history of the Lehigh Valley region. The Society was the vision of Allentown citizen Charles Rhoades Roberts, who began the Society’s library and archive repository for preserving collection items. As one of the largest historical societies in the United States, the Society now holds a collection of more than three million historic documents and 75.000 archival photographs. In 1964, the Society was granted nonprofit organization status, and in 1976, it moved its collections into the Old Lehigh County Courthouse, which was constructed in 1817 and abandoned after the construction of a new courthouse facility in the early 1960s. In 2005, the Society moved its collections from the Old Lehigh County Courthouse to a new public museum facility on the city’s West Walnut Street.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum is one of the largest historical society museums in the United States, presenting six exhibit galleries within 13,000 square feet of exhibit space. The 30,000-square-foot museum facility serves as the headquarters for the Lehigh County Historical Society, which oversees all museum operations and collections. As a nonprofit organization, the Society is dedicated to the preservation of the region’s social and cultural history for future generations and offers a variety of public programming designed to foster civic engagement and historical consciousness attitudes in Lehigh Valley citizens.
The museum’s permanent Lehigh Valley History exhibit is housed within the National Penn Bank Historical Exhibit Gallery and explores the history of the Lehigh Valley region from its indigenous occupation to its present-day innovations. Exhibit areas are structured around major cultures and trades that have called the Lehigh Valley region home, from the Lenni Lenape indigenous tribe to the area’s settlement by Pennsylvania Germans and its role in 20th-century industries such as iron, cement, and silk. Major artifact collections on display include Lenape tools, Pennsylvania German folk art, and items related to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the area’s participation in major 20th-century international conflicts. Exhibit artifacts are rotated on a continuing basis to provide new exhibit experiences for return visitors.
In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum also offers a variety of temporary exhibits rotated on a periodic basis, typically opened in conjunction with a major holiday or museum special event. Past temporary exhibits have included the Native Americans: A Diverse and Evolving History exhibit, which explored the past, present, and future of the area’s indigenous tribes, and the Zinc Industry in Palmerton, Pennsylvania exhibit, which examined the natural and economic impact of the zinc industry on the region throughout the 20th century.The American Presidency showcased collections of items related to the campaigns and office terms of influential American presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, while The 1960s: A Decade that Transformed America explored the decade’s impact on popular culture and minority rights movements.
The Lehigh County Historical Society’s Library and Archives facility is one of the most significant historical archives in the state of Pennsylvania, offering research opportunities by appointment for students and scholars in a reading room setting supervised by museum staff. A museum gift store sells a wide variety of historically-inspired gifts, books, and multimedia items. Several living history museum sites within the Allentown region are also administered by the Lehigh County Historical Society, including the 1770 Trout Hall, the 1756 Troxell-Steckel Farm Museum, the 1893 Claussville School, the Historic Haines Mill, the Historic Lockridge Furnace Museum, and the Saylor Park Cement Kilms. Guided tours of the museum sites may be arranged for small groups and organizations by appointment.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Guided tours of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum may be arranged for small groups and organizations, including curriculum-incorporated tours for elementary and secondary school groups. All tour programs for students follow Pennsylvania State and Common Core academic standards. A speaker’s bureau program and historic reenactors are available for outreach programming in the classroom and at community and business events. Historic reenactments are also presented at the museum periodically on weekends in collaboration with current rotating exhibits and public special events. Annual special events include a Fabulous Flapper’s Mother’s Day Tea event and a holiday model train display.
432 Walnut St, Allentown, PA, website, Phone: 610-435-1074