I knew next to nothing about the Mummers Parade before Friday. I was vaguely aware that there was a tradition, that it was referred to as the “Mummers,” but I had no idea what it looked or sounded like. I got an education when we stopped at the Mummers Museum on two street in South Philly Friday morning. the museum, a true relic of the 70s, is full of great interactive media and elaborate, informative displays.The Mummers Parade is the Philadelphia New Years celebration. The event is rooted in a number of European – Finnish, Swedish, British, Scottish, Germanic – and African traditions. Really, the parade is American cultural amalgamation at its best. Who are the Mummers today? They are clubs of (typically native) Philadelphians who create elaborate costumes and choreograph dramatic dance sequences to compete . clubs are often divided by neighborhood and competition is fierce. Children are initiated into the groups at an early age and become involved in costume construction and performance. Totally bizarre, totally awesome!
The museum was filled with mannequins decked out in costumes from all eras – 1910s, 20s… through the 70s when the museum was constructed. Some of them moved when you pushed a button. There were beautiful photos in these light boxes that you could touch. There was a music station where you could hear traditional Mummers Parade tunes, only you could isolate the instrument tracks; you could turn on only the drums or only the horns, or both at the same time, or none at all. It’s really a remarkable museum. And it was only like $4 to get in! I highly suggest a visit.
I don’t know what we were looking for in the museum. I guess we were trying to give Harrell some idea of this aspect of Philly culture (which, by the way, is weird and wonderful) before he left. Would be interesting to put a whole museum in a gallery show… what if we recreated the entire Mummer’s Museum?! Woah.
Photo Credit: Christopher Rocco at Intrigue Photography