Groups are welcome to research at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania during regular library hours.

Behind the Scenes Tours

Behind the scenes vault tours: Behind five sets of locks, including a 19th-century bank vault door, rest some of the most treasured items in HSP’s collection of over 21 million manuscripts, graphics, and books. The roster of items kept in HSP's most secure vault provides a narrative of the complicated, messy history of America and its citizens. Through the Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tours, HSP offers the opportunity to see these documents closer than ever before. Some of our most valuable treasures include:

  • Francis Scott Key's handwritten lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner

  • William Still's handwritten account of the Underground Railroad, including a mention of Harriet Tubman

  • The first photograph taken in North America

  • Early drafts of the U.S. Constitution

  • Dr. John Fryer's handwritten speech which led to homosexuality being declassified as a psychiatric illness.

  • Watercolors from WWII Japanese Internment camps.

 

Through these items, visitors will learn not only the history of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, but will also follow the country's development from a fledgling federation of mildly antagonistic states into a nation of people bound together by shared beliefs and values, while recognizing the struggle to secure basic rights for all Americans, regardless of creed, color, or lifestyle. Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tours are 60 minutes and accommodate parties of up to six people. The tour is $500 per group. For more information or to book a Behind-the-Scenes Vault Tour, please contact Lee Arnold at 215.982.2399 or larnold@hsp.org.