In 1938 Wilson and Wistar approached Atwater Kent to purchase the recently vacated Franklin Institute building and create a history museum for the City of Philadelphia. They were joined in their efforts by the president of the University of Pennsylvania, the director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the president of the Franklin Institute. Kent agreed, and purchased the building as a gift for the city with three conditions: It was to be dedicated to the history of Philadelphia; named for Kent; and be open to the public free of charge (In 1994 a City Ordinance allowed the museum to charge an admission fee.)
After three years of renovations carried out by the Works Progress Administration, the Atwater Kent Museum was formally dedicated on April 19, 1941.
Today, the Museum houses more than 80,000 objects related to Philadelphia and regional history including an estimated 10,000 17th-20th Century artifacts from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania art and artifact collection, 1700 Quaker-related items from Friends Historical Association Collection, and collections reflecting Philadelphia manufacturing, the 1876 Centennial Exposition, toys and miniatures, and radio broadcasting. The Atwater Kent Museum operates as a city agency as part of Philadelphia's Department of Recreation.