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Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers
Michael Jordan, Photo: Beth A. Keiser/AP/Wide World Photos.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Washington… Lincoln… Franklin… Robinson? This summer, there will be some new names in the National Constitution Center’s galleries as the Center hosts Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers. This exhibition, developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, focuses on 35 athletes (including baseball legend Jackie Robinson) and their performances in 17 different sports. Artifacts selected emphasize such issues as women's changing roles, racial and ethnic integration, the emergence of sports celebrities and superstars, nationalism, perceptions about human physical limitations, and technological breakthroughs that enhanced performance and participation. Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers reminds visitors of all these issues that athletes encounter and the effect their personal victories, both on and off the field, exert on the nation’s consciousness.

“Though it may come as a surprise to some, this exhibit is a natural fit with the museum’s mission,” says National Constitution Center President and CEO Richard Stengel. “The Center is not just about history, it is about the people who make history – those who have made their mark in gaining a broader acceptance. Our main exhibition speaks of the struggle to expand ‘We the People’, including athletes, such as Muhammad Ali, who have played a role in this fight. The Sports exhibit will further show how athletes over time have inspired others and influenced the social constructs around them.”

The exhibition is divided into six main sections: Firsts, Olympians, Game Makers, More than Champions, Barrier Removers, and Superstars. Spotlighting the Smithsonian's sports collection, the exhibition opens with Abraham Lincoln’s handball and closes with Michael Jordan’s basketball jersey. Gertrude Ederle’s English Channel swim goggles, Roberto Clemente’s batting helmet, Lance Armstrong’s yellow jersey and a “Miracle on Ice” hockey shirt from the 1980 Olympics are among the dozens of artifacts.

Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers also features a short video that further explores the athletes featured in the section “More than Sports Champions.” Produced and donated by The History Channel, the video is narrated by basketball legend Bill Russell. It looks at the athletes, such as Billie Jean King, Roberto Clemente and Muhammad Ali, who take their roles as public figures seriously and move beyond being sports champions to become champions for a cause.

To add some Philadelphia flavor, the National Constitution Center is supplementing the exhibit with a tribute to local sports heroes and record breakers, Local Legends. This special section will include a variety of artifacts, images, and memorabilia from some of the biggest names in Philadelphia sports history, including Wilt Chamberlain, Bobby Clarke, Joe Frazier, Tug McGraw, and Vince Papale. Visitors can also explore a display of legendary sports covers from the archives of the Philadelphia Daily News.

To augment the exhibition, the Constitution Center’s education and public programming staff in the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach will develop a variety of resource materials and special programs, including family activities, on the Center’s Web site at The Center will also present a series of Sports Family Fun Days and an array of daily public program activities designed to both excite and educate visitors.

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