This evening, while I waited for my first oral history interview for the Philadelphia Public History Truck on a street corner in East Kensington, a neighbor came out of his home, crossed the street and despite the language barrier between us, let me know when to expect my interviewee based on when she normally gets home. Then, he went back inside his home only to come out a moment later and point across the street. I wasn’t sure at what, but then I realized he was pointing to a chair. Before I could get to it myself, he had brought it to me and told me to, “Sit and relax.” Then, he and I chatted until my interview showed up. This kind neighbor friend is named Bill (which I learned from asking the one question I recall easily in Spanish!).
To Bill, I am sure offering that chair to me was nothing, but it actually impacted me very much– because today, standing on a street corner in East Kensington as I waited for my first oral history interview, I was welcomed by a neighbor who had never seen my face or heard mention of my project.
30 July 2013. Jasper St. East Kensington. Philadelphia, PA.
Thank you, Bill.
Saturday, July 27, 2013. 3:00 p.m.
“the yellow brick road.”
Standing on Emerald Street during row-house fire.
East Kensington, Philadelphia, PA.
Many people seem to be wondering just how the Philadelphia Public History Truck plans to function. It’s a cycle! Check it out:
The truck functions in exhibit cycles:
1-Partner with neighborhood association.
2-Build relationship with community by attending meetings, connecting with community organizations and getting involved by volunteering.
3-Host 1:1 oral history interviews & hold storytelling block party featuring memories and neighborhood objects.
4-Staff begins archival research to support stories and ideas of community.
5-Host historically-based art happenings off the truck in community green spaces.
6-Hold meetings to design the exhibit with community.
7-Put the exhibit up in neighborhood space to access and activate common community grounds with cultural energy. Empower community to use the neighborhood as a museum and art space whenever they feel like it.
8-Host exhibit opening. The celebrated artists of the exhibit are community members.
9-Downsize the exhibit to the truck and traverse the city to connect communities with the neighborhood’s message.
10-Next neighborhood partnership begins. Cycle starts over.
It’s time for updates! There are so many things to share, but the biggest news we have for you right now is that the Philadelphia Public History Truck will be at little berlin fairgrounds (between Boston and York Sts., between Emerald and Coral Sts.) on First Friday in October serving apple cider and pie while inviting community members to share stories and participate in place-based engagement activities. Basically that means sipping and eating seasonal awesomeness while telling Erin stories and making cool art with Jordan.
In other news, the truck is really excited to be building a beautiful relationship with St. Francis Inn on Kensington Ave. Erin visited there this Monday with EKNA Chair Jeff Carpineta, and she returns to the Inn on Saturday to volunteer at mealtime. Many thanks to Karen for welcoming the truck project to the Inn. It seems for the truck project, community curatorial experience includes getting involved and volunteering in the community, too.
A special team of volunteers is called to gather oral histories from the guests and staff of the St. Francis Inn during late August and early September. If you have already submitted volunteering information, you will be contacted about this opportunity, but if not, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org sharing why and how you can assist in this portion of the truck project. We need you!
Got a thought about our news? Do you think community curating involves volunteering? Why? Why not? Tell us in the comment section. We love hearing ideas.
Erin Bernard (Founder, Chief Curator) feels strongly that access matters. She is using the Philadelphia Public History Truck as a path to understanding access issues in history museums in terms of audience engagement. Her impetus to start the truck was founded in her desire to empower urban communities to create together. As an M.A. Public History candidate at Temple University, she is using the history truck to explore the utility of community curating and the effectiveness of nontraditional museum spaces. Beyond this project, her research interests in American History are material culture, midwifery, and environmental preservation. Her biggest curatorial inspiration is Fred Wilson.
Erin is currently the Engagement and Outreach Associate at Painted Bride Art Center. She holds a B.A. Journalism with a background in nonprofit communications and volunteer coordination. She also taught 4th Grade Special Education in Bronx, NY. Erin is a tree-hugging Mom of two who dreams of one day owning goats named Magellan and Molasses.
Jordan Klein (Exhibition Planning & Design) falls a little bit more in love with Philadelphia every day. A transplant from the nutmeg state of Connecticut, she is excited to collect and share the stories of Philadelphians, and to make more stories of her own. Jordan is inspired by places and thinks that the places we live can serve as gathering points for sharing personal memories.
Jordan holds an M.F.A. in Museum Exhibition Planning and Design from the University of the Arts and a B.A. in Museum Studies from Skidmore College. She lives in South Philly with a couple of charming roommates and funnily enough, is an avid Olympic Weightlifter.