Founded in 1960 as the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum is the region's primary repository of art, artifacts and archival materials documenting the diverse maritime history of the Greater Delaware Valley, and the history of the Port of Philadelphia and the other major urban ports of the Delaware River.
The Museum was incorporated in 1961 and began serving the public with small exhibitions and through the assemblage of a library, archival materials and collections. In 1974 the Museum moved to larger quarters within the Independence Park Historic District. At the same time, the Museum opened the Workshop on the Water - a fully operational boat building facility used for display and teaching purposes - on Penn's Landing, which not only established a strong institutional waterfront presence, but also became an anchor attraction for the revitalization of the historic waterfront area.
A new location on Penn's Landing became economically viable when the City of Philadelphia's Port of History building became available. A $15 million renovation and expansion on the building began in January 1994, and the new facility with increased exhibition, educational, library and storage/curatorial space and an incorporated Workshop on the Water opened to the public in July 1995, renamed as Independence Seaport Museum. In January 1996, the Museum assumed the responsibility for Olympia, Admiral Dewey's famed flagship during his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, and the World War II submarine, Becuna, both of which are National Historic Landmarks.
Today, the Independence Seaport Museum is an anchor attraction on Penn's Landing, attracting visitors to experience both Philadelphia's heritage and current waterfront. The Museum educates area youth groups through interactive programs in its boat shop, presents changing exhibits in its galleries and hosts visiting ships and events year-round.