August Updates

Here at History Truck, we are up to our ears in good news.  Firstly, we won Best IRL project of the year at the Philadelphia Geek Awards!  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Geekadelphia and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and PHILADELPHIA for making History Truck the awesome project that it is. 



So awesome that the Barra Foundation has funded History Truck with an $85,000 grant to connect the neighborhood history museum component of the project to Temple University’s Center for Public History through 2015 with funding to make our work in North Philadelphia happen, to create a web portal for our oral histories, and to evaluate the project as a possible curriculum model where students in the graduate program help run the project.


But enough news about the project in general.  We have better news to share– about our work at Tree House Books during July-August.  Below, Grace DiAgostino, the undergraduate research assistant from our first exhibition cycle, updates on our first piece of work in North Philly:


From Grace DiAgostino:


Located in the heart of North Philadelphia is Tree House Books, an organization whose mission is to “grow and sustain a community of readers, writers, and thinkers in North Central Philadelphia.” History Truck founder and curator, Erin Bernard, along with Philadelphia artist, Theodore A. Harris, partnered with Tree House Books to complement and contribute to their summer camp this past July.


Young female historians brainstorming questions for
their oral history interview with Theodore Andrews.



The middle-high school male camp interviewing Don Williams
who opened his barber shop at 15th and Susquehanna Ave. in 1966.

History Truck sharing authority with even the youngest of historians.


Campers read books that focused on a specific time in Black history or on specific African Americans who changed history. In addition to their readings, Erin led the groups in public history workshops and how to conduct oral histories by working with community members, some of which relate to characters in their books! Erin and Tree House Books counselors worked together with the campers, helping them to develop questions, interview the community member, and then reflect on what they learned from that person. Campers interviewed Black Panther Barbara Easley Cox, Vietnam Veteran Theodore Andrews, Tree House books volunteer and lifelong resident Sharon Turner, Philadelphia Jazz Project leader Homer Jackson, and local business owner Don Williams of Don’s Doo Shop on Susquehanna Avenue.

teddytreehouse tree house
Collagist and poet Theodore A. Harris coaching campers
in using collage as a visual language for translating oral history…
there was a lot of work to install!

After interviewing and reflecting on their interviews with community members, Theodore Harris led campers in creating collages. At the end of the day, the summer campers were asked to begin thinking about their collages and to pull pages out of magazines that represented what they heard, learned, and felt about their oral histories. The beautiful and meaningful artwork will be displayed on the History Truck throughout the North Philadelphia cycle.

A collage inspired by Barbara Easley Cox’s oral history
by Tree House History Maker Meadow.  These collages are currently on view at Tree House Books through September and will be traveled with the truck when we finish our exhibition cycle in North Philadelphia.


The summer camp experience of the campers was multi-faceted, collective, and educational in a variety of ways. By sharing authority, Tree House Books staff, historian Erin Bernard, artist Theodore Harris, and the students were able to work together to chronicle and artistically interpret meaningful histories in North Central Philadelphia community.



**This artist-historian collaborative portion of History Truck was funded by
Philly STAKE’s February micogrant funding dinner.  
Buy your tickets to the next dinner on September 21st at Bartram’s Garden and support wonderful projects like this one HERE.**

Summer with the Truck

We have a lot of updates and BIG NEWS to share very soon, but in the meantime, we are thrilled to let you know that the truck has just kicked off its work in the neighborhood of NORTH PHILLY from 9th and Dauphin St. to 15th and Susquehanna Ave. with a team of awesome partners.


Tree House Books

Philadelphia Urban Creators

Temple University Center for Public History

UPTOWN Entertainment and Development Corporation, Inc.


This July, Erin will be leading public history workshops at the Tree House Books History Makers summer camp.  She will train young critical thinkers (ages 6-15) to consider what questions we should ask about the neighborhood and then connect these kids to local residents to conduct an oral history interview.  At the same time, campers will complete collage workshops with locally-based collagist and poet Theodore A. Harris.  By the end of July, campers will create an original collage completely inspired by the findings in their oral history work.  All of this creative product will be featured in the truck’s 2015 exhibition on NORTH PHILLY.

This Fall, the truck will be hosting Storytelling Block Parties with its North Philly partners to perform more oral histories, host object storycircles, map memories, and more!  Stay tuned.


In the meantime, we are thrilled to share that the History Truck is nominated for a Philly Geek Award!  We are so humbled and grateful.  See you August 16th!


JUST ADDED: Closing Reception Potluck

Image  Image Image

We have been having such a wonderful time sharing our first exhibition with Philadelphia that we have decided to close our month at Little Berlin with a potluck dinner from 5:30-8:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26th.  Bring a dish and chat with the truck team about the curatorial process.  Share more stories and make another memory of East Kensington.
RSVP is not required, but appreciated.  Let us know what dish you plan to share!



**Having trouble finding Little Berlin?**
Little Berlin is in the Viking Mill studio building
(this building has two murals, one of which is an angel)
at 2430 Coral St. in Kensington accessible through
the art studio building parking lot on Coral St., then head to the back of the courtyard and
up the cement steps to the wooden door.

Manufacturing Fire opens April 4th!

“Cities are and have always been fire places.”
-Steven Pyne, Fire: A Brief History


April 4th – April 26th 
Philadelphia Public History Truck presents…
Manufacturing Fire
Does East Kensington manufacture fire?  What is fire anyway?
Little Berlin  | 2430 Coral St.  | Opening Friday, April 4th 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Gallery Hours Saturdays 12-5 p.m. or by appointment  |  | @historytruck

The Philadelphia Public History Truck is pleased to debut its first stationary community exhibition entitled Manufacturing Fire about the neighborhood of East Kensington. Manufacturing Fire examines fire and activism in this place while challenging us all to consider the critical danger in creating racial boundaries. Taste soup and listen to oral histories. Explore community-submitted objects as well as work by the truck team, Maria Möller, Lewis Colburn, Peter Woodall, a collaboration between John Abner and Erin Bernard, and more.

Curated by Erin Bernard
with Jordan Klein, Exhibition Design Consultant and Grace Diagostino, Research Associate.

Thanks to Temple University Libraries, Urban Archives (Paley Library, Temple University), Historical Society of Pennsylvania, East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA), St Francis Inn Ministries, and Kensington Community Food Co-op.

Opening Friday April 4th 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Gallery hours Saturdays through April 26th 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. or by appointment. Contact

*History Truck begins the traveling version of this exhibition in May.*

We’re headed to 15th & Susquehanna Ave.!

Dear Friends,

I’m writing with good news that I’ll be presenting at Philly Stake, a recurring microgrant funding dinner and competition that funds locally-based creative community engagement projects in Philadelphia.  All presenters are given three minutes to present their project and compete for funding.  All in attendance at the dinner VOTE for the winning project.  This dinner is being held at the First Unitarian Church at 21st and Chestnut St. on Sunday, February 16th from 5-8 p.m.  Come out, drink, eat and vote! Purchase tickets here.
From July 2014-June 2015, we are moving our work to the neighborhood just north of Temple University to put our History Truck: North Philly exhibit cycle into action with an expansive role in artistic programming.  There is much to share about the second leg of the History Truck’s journey, but for starters, here is a list of partners.
 (Want in?  Contact Erin to find out how the Truck can work with you.  We love new friends.)
At Philly Stake, we are asking for funding for the portion of History Truck: North Philly which directly relates to Tree House Books, a nonprofit cultural literacy center at 15th and Susquehanna Ave.  Public historian Erin Bernard (that’s me) has partnered with Collagist Theodore Harris (Founder/Director of the IASBA) to lead Tree House Books campers in July 2014 through the design and curation of a history exhibit utilizing oral history interviews of neighborhood community members and collage in the context of the summer reading curriculum.   Bernard will specialize in guiding students through the interview process.  Harris will specialize in leading the campers with interpreting oral histories using collage.  Works created by campers will be put up in a mini-exhibit at Tree House for the end of summer party, but also included in the full Truck exhibition in June 2015.  All recorded interviews and the truck project itself will be archived in Temple’s Special Collections Research Center.  The grant request budget includes historically-based reading/curriculum materials, a student audio recorder, collage materials, and small stipends for both Erin and Theodore.

So come out, eat, drink and vote for the Truck!  You can purchase tickets here!  If you cannot make it on the 16th, but know a friend who may like to come out and support, please spread the word!  If you would like to support the truck, but cannot attend this dinner, please reach out to me personally.  We need you!  (Please be sure to check out our sponsors page on our website, too, so that you can shop from awesome history truck-supporting institutions and vendors!)
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Many of you are already dear friends of our project, and we are continuously grateful for your support.
erin bernard
founding director & chief curator
philadelphia public history truck

Theodore Harris is the founder/director of the Institute for the Advanced Study in Black Aesthetics.  He was a founding artist of the Mural Arts Program.  In 2006, he co-authored the book Our Flesh of Flames with Amiri Baraka and has led collage workshops in prisons and mental health facilities.  Recently, he presented his work at McGill University.  Theodore’s studio is at 9th & Dauphin St.

Curatorial Update

Dear Friends,

Well, hey!  It has been awhile.  Time flies when you’re having fun… or researching a neighborhood history exhibition.  Either way, things are moving along with the History Truck’s first exhibit cycle, and we are excited to share some very exciting updates.


Our most important news is that every oral history recording and the truck project itself is going to be archived in the Special Collections Research Center of the Temple University Libraries.  As those who are familiar with this project know, much of the truck’s effort– beyond community building– is about capturing fleeting histories in a rapidly changing Philadelphia.  Now, we have a solid, ongoing partnership which solidifies that every moment we spend with people doing our work is going to be remembered.  We view this as a huge moment for our project and in the longstanding public history conversation regarding “what we choose to remember.”

Secondly, we’re a growing family!  Temple University has generously funded an undergraduate research associate for the project this spring.  I could not be more thrilled to have another historian working with me.  So, welcome, Grace!  Check our her bio on the trucker page.


The break between semesters has been a huge rush of research.  I have been looking to put trends in oral history conversations into context with archival documentation, and I have found some things that are perplexing.  Many of the issues shared with me today about East Kensington were also of concern in the early twentieth century.  What does that mean?  I am not sure, and I don’t think I am going to make that deduction with this exhibit, but I plan to stage an exhibit with Jordan (our EK exhibition designer), Grace, and all of the EK community which will help us all frame questions about future steps in this neighborhood with an air of creative reflection.  What issues am I referring to here?  Well, you’ll have to wait until the exhibit is fully announced for that information.

BUT!  I can tell you the opening will be Friday, April 4, 2014 from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. at Little Berlin at 2430 Coral St. in the Viking Mill building. Gallery hours are 12-5 p.m. Saturday and by special appointment.

We’ve got years worth of programming in the works, too, folks, and we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign soon to fundraise for a permanent vehicle!  In the meantime, we need an iPad.  Got one you don’t use anymore?  Donate it to the truck project!  You will see it in action during exhibition.  E-mail me anytime, whether you have a donation or a question or anything else –

Be well,