The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary , sponsored the traveling exhibition, “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World.” This traveling exhibition was based upon a larger exhibition of the same name developed by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a nonprofit educational alliance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The exhibit gave public audiences the opportunity to explore and to talk about Franklin's life, his contributions to the founding of this country, and his high standards for work, citizenship, and contribution to community. It looked at his background, his self-education, and his philosophical and religious beliefs and their effect on his work and life. It also showed Franklin in the context of the eighteenth century and as a product of his times—a brilliant and rather unconventional product of his times—rather than as the venerable bespectacled and grandfatherly figure with whom we are all familiar.
The traveling panel exhibit consisted of six sections of colorful, freestanding photo-panels incorporating representations of artifacts from the original Franklin exhibition, and a new text written by the curator.
Exhibition content was arranged in thematic sections showing Franklin in the Boston of his youth, Franklin's family and personal life, as well as the years when he built his business as Philadelphia's premier printer. The exhibit also looked at Franklin's commitment to public service, his interests in medicine and public health, and his work in science and philosophy. Franklin's political career in England, France and the United States, and his contributions to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other major documents were the subjects of the final two sections of the exhibit.
Two copies of the 1,000-square-foot traveling exhibit circulated to 40 public and academic library sites between November 2007 and July 2011. Libraries selected for the tour hosted the exhibit for a six-week period. Participating libraries were expected to present at least two free public programs featuring a lecture or discussion by a qualified scholar on exhibition themes. All showings of the exhibition were free and open to the public.
The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary represented a consortium created in 2000 by the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania. The consortium was supported by a major gift to the nation from The Pew Charitable Trusts. For more information, visit www.benfranklin300.org .
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