Strutting towards a new future at the Mummers Museum

The Mummers Museum continues to celebrate the rich traditions of the Mummers while expanding their vision to be a vibrant hub that engages the wider community around it.

The Mummers Museum, 1100 S 2nd St., opened in 1976 as part of Philadelphia’s celebration of America’s Bicentennial. The Museum is dedicated to celebrating the tradition of Mummery in Philadelphia. In recent years, the museum has been underutilized as a maker’s space and a user’s space. That’s all about to change under the leadership of a newly reinvigorated board.

The new board recently elected Brian W. Donnelly as president. Donnelly is a lifetime resident of South Philadelphia and has a strong presence in the “2 Street” area as the owner and director of Murphy Ruffenach Brian W. Donnelly Funeral Home, 2239 S. 3rd St.

The efforts of the new board include outreach to the larger community through outdoor craft fairs, flea markets, and ethnic festivals. That includes the return of the Lunar New Year celebration featuring the Philadelphia SUNS Lion Dance troupe.

The Mummers Museum is also partnering with WHYY and the Free Library of Philadelphia to present “Reimagining the Mummers: A Conversation on Tradition and Inclusion” on February 15, 2024 at 7:30 p.m. The event is part of the “Bridging Blocks” series hosted jointly by WHYY and the Free Library which aim to “unite neighbors through conversations.”

The event will  look at the past, present and future of the Mummer’s parade and explore how to “…make the Mummer’s parade an annual celebration that all Philadelphians can participate in and be proud of.” Host Eric Marsh, Sr., Community & Engagement Manager at WHYY, will be joined by moderator Bobbi Booker, Managing Editor of Plan Philly.

Mike Carwile, a Mummers Museum Board Member, noted that the event is “an opportunity for people to share their thoughts and hear other opinions. It will let people from all traditions build bridges between our community and others.” This will help expand the traditions of Mummery “in a way that everyone can be proud of.”
Revamped catering hall

To engage the community in a different manner, under Donnelly’s leadership the museum has also redesigned their catering facility. The museum’s building, situated in the heart of South Philadelphia, makes the perfect location for gatherings from christenings to engagement parties to wedding receptions and more. They are now using Kitchen Consigliere, based in Collingswood, NJ as their caterer, highlighting the delicious cuisine of chef and owner Andrew Lutz, a South Philadelphia native.

The catering hall at the Mummers Museum.
About the collection

The museum’s collection includes costumes, oral histories, video and audio archives, and even an exhibit to teach anyone how to “strut.” The collection brings visitors up close to the elaborate costumes and documents the history behind the Mummers Parade.

The library, available by appointment, is a treasure trove of costumes, props, memorabilia, dolls, and original art sketches. In recent years, some of the items were loaned to Lemon Hill Mansion in Fairmount Park for display as part of their “Very Philly Christmas” holiday celebration.

The board is excited about the future of the Mummers Museum as it expands the vision of Mummery in the new millennium while staying grounded in the century-plus years of tradition. “It’s an exciting time!” concludes Donnelly.