Countless people head to museums and galleries each year hoping to be touched by a meaningful piece of art or to view something with historic significance. And whether one enjoys looking at sculptures, portraits, photography, old documents or even early transportation devices, there’s no shortage of museums in the state of Pennsylvania for people to check out and enjoy
Many museums in the state are also offering private rooms for events and meetings, allowing hosts the chance to hold a one-of-a-kind party that attendees won’t soon forget. Not only do these museums offer designated event rooms, but many also allow guests to “party” in the gallery’s halls, so people can walk amongst historic antiques, manicured grounds or even priceless art in an inspiring and creative escape from a standard event space.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg maintains a collection of nearly 5 million artifacts and objects that interpret the rich history of the state. One of its newest exhibits celebrates Pennsylvania icons, and features more than 350 items, journaling how Pennsylvania has uniquely influenced our nation’s development through its people, places, products and events.
Judi Yingling, facility use coordinator, notes the museum offers unique settings and services that will make any event very special.
The museum holds events from small birthday parties for children in its Allegheny and Susquehanna Rooms that include a Hands On Curiosity Connection for children up to 5 years old, to large corporate events, holiday parties and receptions upstairs in its larger areas: Memorial Hall, Village Square and Mammal Hall.
“Have you ever been to a wedding where people are constantly looking at their watch wondering how long do those darn pictures take? Well, they don’t do that here at the State Museum,” Yingling says. “Guests get to roam through the museum during the cocktail hour and learn amazing things about Pennsylvania.”
“You can learn all kinds of things when you roam the halls of the museum during an event,” Yingling says. “It truly is like ‘Night at the Museum,’ where you can be transported back in time where people traveled across country in a Conestoga Wagon.”
Additionally, the State Museum of Pennsylvania has an auditorium available for corporate meetings that seats 418 people. The auditorium is fully equipped for presentations with wireless internet access, a large screen, theatrical stage lighting and a dynamic sound system.
A STROLL THROUGH THE GALLERIES
James A. Michener Art Museum, named for Doylestown’s Pulitzer-Prize winning author and philanthropist, is ideally located in Doylestown, the heart of scenic Bucks County.
The Michener Art Museum hosts many special exhibitions and spotlights important regional artists. Permanent collection highlights include the Nakashima Reading Room, the Daniel Garber mural, “A Wooded Watershed,” and a world-class collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings.
“The museum is housed in a beautifully restored historic site that began in 1884 as the Bucks County Prison,” says Hollie Brown, director of operations. “The property has been transformed into a welcoming center of culture and beauty, providing a dramatic and elegant setting to showcase remarkable American art as well as to host special events.”
The Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion is a spectacular 2,500-square-foot, light-filled structure with 23-foot-tall glass walls and 4,500 square feet of outdoor courtyard space for ceremonies and receptions, which is accessible by indoor connection to the galleries and by a separate garden entrance. It has banquet seating for 180 and theater-style seating for 200, as well as a dance floor.
There’s also a grand entrance hall, with the capacity for 150-plus for cocktail receptions; The Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden Terrace, which can accommodate up to 200 people for a sit-down, served reception; and the elegant Penn Color Board Room, which can accommodate up to 24 for business meetings.
“During any celebration, guests may stroll through our galleries,” Brown says. “Guests can view remarkable American art: paintings, sculptures, photography and objects in other media as well as a striking blend of contemporary and historic architecture. They can sip cocktails in the entrance hall, enjoy a ceremony in the sculpture garden and dine and dance in the pavilion.”
The Michener offers flexible space to incorporate indoor and outdoor concepts as well as to accommodate inclement weather. It has a 16-speaker equalizer, wireless microphones, a projector for a 10-by-15-foot retractable screen, a DVD/CD player and free Wi-Fi. Additionally, the Michener Art Museum’s exclusive caterer—Catering By Design—provides event planning, staffing, rentals, décor and florals.
Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley contains more than 17,000 works of art, representing nearly 2,000 years of cultural heritage in an accessible and visitorfriendly environment.
“The museum is known for being a resource in the Lehigh Valley since 1934, when we first started as a community-based space for local artists to show their works,” says Chris Potash, manager of marketing and public relations. “We expanded to a more regional resource back in 1960, when we received a donation of 53 Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection.”
In 1975, an expansion to the building was completed, including the installation of a room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as part of its permanent collection. Six years ago, the museum underwent a large renovation for more than 25,000 square feet of space, and added 10,000 more square feet of gallery, storage and public space. All of this space can be accessed by those attending an event at the museum.
“We really made the space more modern,” Potash says. “The galleries were expanded and it allows us to bring in some traveling shows, which are bigger, and mount some of our own shows.”
The museum’s auditorium accommodates 300 standing, 180 seated or 128 at a maximum of 16 tables. It offers a 32-foot-by-64-foot floor with a 16-foot-by-32-foot lobby space, and a ceiling-mounted projector and sound system.
limited number in the galleries, but it’s a select few each year,” Potash says. “We also have access to Arts Park, which is right across the street, and for certain events you can start off there and transition into the museum. There is a limited opportunity for this, though.”
HONOR THY MILITARY
The Pennsylvania Military Museum preserves and honors Pennsylvania’s military history from 1747 to the present with special emphasis on the 20th century, interpreting for citizens and visitors the story of the Commonwealth’s “Citizen Soldiers,” civilian activities on the home front and the contributions of Pennsylvania industry to military technology.
Tyler O. Gum, site administrator for the Boalsburg-based museum, notes that while there may be other museums related to military history, this is one that focuses on the full story of military history in Pennsylvania rather than just one battle or time period.
“We provide three distinct areas for events and meetings. They include a pavilion, a theater and a boardroom,” he says. “The pavilion has picnic tables and convenient parking and is frequented by individuals, groups and organizations wishing to picnic, host an outdoor event and even hold parties in various sizes.”
The theater can accommodate 100- 115 guests, depending on seating and table arrangements, and contains a full kitchen, audio-visual equipment, theater screen and podium with computer hookups for projector use and Internet access.
“Our boardroom has an attached kitchen, tables and chairs comfortable for a business meeting and a dry erase board. Also convenient is the ability to be semiprivate with a spectacular view of the Front Parade Grounds,” Gum says. “Being able to provide tables and chairs makes us a popular venue for forums, round tables, seminars, business meetings and even military officer commissioning ceremonies.”
The museum is not only easy to access with free parking, it is also a historic site that adds great depth to any event. When hosting an event, the museum staff will provide various programming that includes tours, demonstrations, hands-on-history and even custom programs dependent on material and staff availability
“Honoring the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and those serving on the home front, it is humbling to be in the presence of such memories and artifacts,” Gum says. “The formalities that accompany military pomp and circumstance lend itself to being an ideal location for reunions and business meetings.”
Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg has more than 100 locomotives and railroad cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries on display, including the priceless Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Collection.
“What separates us from other museums in the state is primarily the visually stunning and unique quality of the venue, with its amazing, world-class collection of historic trains,” says Deborah Reddig, museum advancement director. “We house extensive exhibits of railroad artifacts, plus priceless art work, books, photographs and corporate railroad material.”
Many events are held in the main exhibit area, Rolling Stock Hall, which offers 100,000 square feet of space and is amid trains, incidentally making it the most popular. Other events are held in the second-floor gallery, multipurpose room, the lobby, the 1915 street scene, Steinman Station passenger depot, Stewart Junction railway education center and on the observation bridge.
The multipurpose room accommodates up to 80 people theater-style and is utilized regularly by corporate functions, small businesses, community groups, nonprofits, professional associations and more.
“Guests may arrange for various types of tours of the museum, restoration shop and railroad equipment by staff and docents,” Reddig says. “What’s special is the sense that you have of being part of something majestic and historic, in an environment that can feel both expansive and intimate, elegant and informal.”
There’s also free on-site parking and referrals to catering, entertainment, florist, lodging, dining and other guest activities.
CASTLE IN THE SKY
Mercer Museum in Doylestown is an architectural wonder; a concrete castle built by renowned tile maker Henry Mercer to house his encyclopedic collection of the tools and implements of early America.
“The interior of the museum is just as fascinating as the exterior, with artifacts like an antique fire engine, whaling boat and horsedrawn carriages and more hanging from the walls and ceiling of the museum,” says Gayle Shupack, marketing and public relations coordinator. “The Mercer Museum’s Elkins Gallery and Great Hall are unique settings for any corporate meeting or event.”
The Elkins Gallery is a stately Georgian room displaying reproductions of the Mercer’s collection of Bucks County paintings, and can be booked for intimate gatherings or large groups up to 150 people.
“A vintage baby grand piano and two fireplaces with mantels flank the intimate space,” Shupack says. “Seasonally, the adjoining Garden Patio Tent is included in the rental by Memorable Affairs Catering, offering a beautiful outdoor garden space for a reception or cocktail party. The garden tent can also seat up to 120 guests for dinner.”
The Great Hall’s glass ceiling allows a breathtaking view of the towering six-level castle and intimate evening events are enhanced with the dramatic state-of-the-art lighting rotating in a prism of colors on the historic castle. The Great Hall can accommodate parties for up to 100 standing or 60 seated. The adjacent Courtyard and Plaza are available weather permitting or may be tented.
“Guests have never seen anything like the Mercer Museum, a towering six-story castle that is now 100 years old. Many of the artifacts are hanging right in front of you, so it’s a chance to get up close and personal with history,” Shupack says. “We also host outdoor tented receptions at Fonthill Castle, Henry Mercer’s home, that is 1 mile away from the Mercer Museum.”