Awaken ______: An Experimental Exhibit

In 2019, the Mercer Museum, operated by the Bucks County Historical Society, received a $230,000 grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to support a major initiative over a period of two and a half years entitled, “Plus Ultra: Awakening the Mercer Museum Core.”

Inspired by the Latin motto Plus Ultra, or “more beyond”, the Mercer Museum’s founder Henry Mercer spent his life as an archaeologist, historian, tile maker, storyteller, collector, and advocate for human ingenuity.

This experimental, capacity-building project, the first of its kind for the organization, allows the museum to prototype and transform various empty rooms in the original historic core of the Mercer Museum castle into intimate spaces designed for meaningful experiences through the power of objects.

Supported by a vast collection of historic artifacts, the project is a new framework for creating Mercer Museum exhibits that engage the community. It is experimental in nature – a project that builds capacity on how to plan exhibits in the future and learn more about the communities the museum wishes to engage.

Awaken ______:  An Experimental Exhibit offers visitors a reimagined and awakened Mercer Museum experience, reinventing unused museum spaces into areas in which to engage more deeply with the collections and one another. It will reintroduce the Mercer Museum in a fresh, unexpected and exciting way. These exhibits are meant to be working prototypes, not polished exhibits in the traditional sense, and are designed to offer “mini-excursions” adjacent to the larger experience of the Mercer Museum core.

This project offers visitors three prototypes to explore over two years:

  • Prototype A:  April 2021 – January 2022
  • Prototype B:  May 6, 2022 – Late Summer 2022
  • Prototype C: Fall 2022 – Winter 2022

For Prototype B, opening on May 6, 2022, we’re experimenting, and you’re invited!

Opening May 6, we’re pleased to present an experimental prototype exhibit exploring the themes of food, cooking, dining, and inheritance.

Henry Mercer was inspired to establish the Mercer Museum because he wanted to give people tangible reminders of the crafts and customs of pre-industrial daily life. He also wanted visitors to remember what has been collectively passed down to them: a shared inheritance of creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and making do.

We do something similar when we cook and serve food around a table: we keep traditions alive, update them for changing times, remember people who taught us to cook, follow time-tested recipes, and use heirloom kitchen tools that still work after years of use. We are the heirs to stories, customs, advice, special tastes and evocative smells—things that aren’t tangible unless we make them so.

This exhibit will include two installations inside the museum: one devoted to cooking and recipes on Level 2, the other devoted to dining and unforgettable meals on Level 4. When you visit and explore, we hope that you will share some of your own food-related stories, traditions and memories with us and with each other, adding to our collective understanding of culinary customs as they exist today.

Learn more at our Awaken exhibit website:

Awaken ______: An Experimental Exhibit has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.



All the concrete used to construct Fonthill (1908-1910) was mixed by hand!
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• Fonthill Castle will close early on Friday, October 7, 2022 for a private event. The last tour will be held at 2:00 p.m.
• Fonthill Castle will close early on Saturday, October 8, 2022 for a private event. The last tour will be held at 2:00 p.m.
• Fonthill Castle will close early on Thursday, October 13, 2022 for a private event. The last tour will be held at 12:30 p.m.
• In preparation for our yearly fundraising event, the Mercer Museum will be closed on Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15, 2022.