We're open Thurs-Mon 10am - 5pm
(215) 925-2800
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Our Story

OUR FOUNDER

Irvin J. Borowsky

The National Liberty Museum is the culmination of the life’s work of Irvin Borowsky, a proud lifelong Philadelphian, distinguished publisher, art collector, and philanthropist.

“We who are fortunate enough to live in the land of liberty must protect it, preserve it, and guard it for future generations.”

—Founder Irvin Borowsky, at the National Liberty Museum’s opening ceremony on January 12, 2000

Irv, as he was known to those close to him, was the youngest son of two Polish immigrants who arrived in America in 1904. Like millions of others, they came with only what they could carry, seeking safety and new opportunities. Their experience and background gave their son a profound appreciation for what America offered.

 

Irv became an entrepreneur at a very young age, going on to found North American Publishing Company (NAPCO), the parent company of Publishing Executive and Book Business magazines, as well as a magazine that would eventually evolve into TV Guide. When he retired, he wanted to give back to our nation by reminding people that liberty is the defining force that makes everything else that we do possible. In founding the NLM, he was seeking not just to present a collection of art and artifacts, but rather to illustrate that liberty is a fragile concept whose survival requires us to understand, respect, and actively engage with one another.

 

Irvin Borowsky died peacefully on November 25, 2014—two days after his 90th birthday.

 

We at the NLM proudly carry on Irv’s legacy and commitment to keeping liberty alive and thriving for all.

Our History

The Evolution of the NLM

1982
1982
Irv founds the American Interfaith Institute (A.I.I.), which aims to bring together Christians and Jews, and to reconcile theological misinformation and miseducation.
1988
1988
Irv and his daughter Gwen found the Liberty Education Center to support educators in areas of conflict resolution and character education.
1990
1990
Irv is introduced to the Studio Glass movement with a piece by artist Harvey Littleton at the Snyderman-Works Gallery. As a founding member of the Art Alliance of Contemporary Glass, Irv helps promote organizations that further the contemporary glass art movement and its artists, building strong relationships with institutions such as Tyler School of Art and University of the Arts.
1993
1993
A.I.I. publishes Artists Confronting the Inconceivable, a groundbreaking publication featuring glass art reflecting on the Holocaust and its lasting impact around the world. This is the first time glass is used as an interpretive medium to explore what would become the museum’s mission. Many of these world-class glass pieces are on view in the museum today.
1995
1995
Irv purchases 321 Chestnut Street. Built in 1902, the building originally was a bank, part of historic Bankers’ Row, and later became the Maritime Museum. The National Liberty Museum is founded and in partnership with Gwen, Irv spends the next 5 years fundraising and constructing his vision.
1998
1998
Irv commissions The Flame of Liberty from world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
The National Liberty Museum opens to the public.

JANUARY 12, 2000

2000
2000
The museum holds its first glass auction, which has become a major annual event for contemporary glass art collectors and a source of support for the museum’s mission. The NLM also hosts the first Young Heroes Award, the first in a series of annual awards programs honoring individuals who have gone above and beyond in service to others. Additional awards were added in later years: Teacher as Hero (2004); Awards of Valor (2005); and Healthcare Heroes (2017).
2009
2009
As the museum enters its 10th year, it reaches over half a million visitors.
2009
2009
Irv steps down as CEO of the NLM and names Gwen as his replacement.
2010
2010
Young Heroes Outreach Program (YHOP) is launched as an expansion of the Young Heroes Awards program, to inspire a new generation of civic leaders in greater Philadelphia-area schools.
Irvin J. Borowsky passes away at the age of 90.
Irvin J. Borowsky passes away at the age of 90.

NOVEMBER 25, 2014

2015
2015
NLM partners with Paramount Pictures and the John Templeton Foundation to sponsor a nationwide Selma Speech & Essay Contest for students with a top prize of $5,000.
2016
2016
The NLM is one of seven Philadelphia-area cultural institutions to host exhibitions as part of the 2016 Democratic National Convention’s PoliticalFest. The exhibition was centered around the theme of “First Families.”
2017
2017
As part of Pride Month, the NLM opens Transparency, the nation’s first exhibition featuring studio glass works produced exclusively by LGBTQ+ artists.
2018
2018
After 2 years of construction, the new Flame of Liberty gallery is unveiled, featuring a multimedia display by award-winning design firm Batwin & Robin. This piece invites us to consider a world without liberty and is central to the museum experience today.
2019
2019
In partnership with Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation in Poland, the NLM opens Forbidden Art, an exhibition featuring 20 works of art created by prisoners in the concentration camp.
2020
2020
The NLM celebrates 20 years of honoring heroes, showcasing glass art, and working toward the advancement of liberty.
2020
2020
The museum receives $1M in funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, kicking off major upgrades and renovations to our museum and galleries.
2020
2020
Demolition of the Liberty Museum’s first gallery, Voyages to Liberty, makes way for a new contemporary exhibition and event space.

2021 and Beyond

The National Liberty Museum carries on the legacy of Irv Borowsky with an eye towards the future. Through temporary exhibitions and permanent gallery renovations, we aim to continue to educate our visitors by showing the human side of liberty, creating a space for reflecting on difficult questions and inspiring positive action.
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Tue ‒ Thu: 09am ‒ 07pm
Fri ‒ Mon: 09am ‒ 05pm

Adults: $25
Children & Students free

673 12 Constitution Lane Massillon
781-562-9355, 781-727-6090