The Space

By J. Cooper Robb
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 28, 2005

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Eileen Garbarino
Occupation: Tour guide at the Mummers Museum.
Neighborhood: South Philadelphia.
Style: Art deco-style museum.

In Philadelphia the end of the year can mean only one thing: Mummers. Each New Year's Day scores of revelers head to Center City to watch thousands of Mummers parade down Broad Street. But mummery isn't just a one-day thing. Since 1976 the Mummers Museum has welcomed visitors year-round to learn about the city's oldest tradition. The museum houses not only a large area displaying Mummers costumes and historical artifacts, but also a 220-seat banquet hall, administrative offices, a staff library and even a short walking replica of the famous parade route.


I always thought the building was a converted movie theater.
"A lot of people think that because of the marquee outside, but it's an original structure that was built from the ground up for the museum."

The facade is fantastic.
"They used the art deco design to suggest a large back piece like one worn in the parade. All the tiles on the outside were imported from Belgium."

What's the layout of the building?
"The ground floor is the lobby area, offices and gift shop. The third floor is where the research library is. The museum is on the second floor, and then downstairs is the banquet room. It has a wall of fame honoring different groups, a stage where string bands perform, a large bar and a kitchen."

People rent out the banquet room?
"Yes. People have Halloween and Christmas parties or birthday parties, that sort of thing. It's mostly large groups, like the University of the Arts, which has their Christmas party here every year."

Was the banquet room added later?
"No. It's original to when the museum was built. Like most museums, we're always looking for ways to raise money, and rentals are one of our best ways of doing that."

I love the Broad and Locust street sign here in the museum area.
"We call this the Broad Street room. Even the floor is painted to look like Broad Street."

Where did you get most of the costumes that are on display?
"The different bands donate them to us, which is nice because they're very expensive, and they recycle many of the pieces from year to year."

So you have costumes spanning almost the entire 100-plus-year history of the parade?
"Exactly. Like this old child's costume someone found in their attic and donated to us."

The detail on the costumes is amazing.
"When you get up close to them you can really see the hand-stitching they did. We also have original sketches of the costume designs that they then made the costumes from."

What do people most like to do at the museum?
"The Mummers strut. The kids especially like that. They get a little umbrella and a little outfit, and we teach them how to strut. Of course the adults like it too."

Got a great space? Email J. Cooper Robb (jrobb@philadelphiaweekly.com) with your name, neighborhood and contact info.

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