As you know, History Truck is a mobile museum project creating interdisciplinary neighborhood exhibitions with the people who live, work, and play in Philly’s places and spaces. On Friday evening, History Truck opened its second community-based exhibition at 2152 N. Broad St. about the history of North Philadelphia. Based on the oral histories we collected over the course of our yearlong cycle, They Say They Gonna Build explores university expansion and community building in the context of North Philadelphia. We brought lesser-known narratives to light in creative ways with the help of grassroots organizations, artists, and historians of all ages.
Now, the project needs your help to keep moving. For the past two years, civic leader Jeff Carpineta has lovingly shared his wheels with us, but it is time for us to drive on our own.
We need our own truck!
FUEL OUR MISSION. DONATE NOW to help us purchase and design our own dynamic and comfortable TRUCK that will serve as a mobile oral history collection and exhibition space for years to come.
Last week, we graciously accepted the John Andrew Gallery Community Action Award at the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia’s annual awards ceremony, but I want to tell you specifics of how History Truck is a resource to Philadelphians. In the project’s infancy, I volunteered at the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen before launching oral history sessions with their guests in East Kensington. We hosted a block party with the neighbors of 1800 E. Huntingdon Street with support from the East Kensington Neighbors Association. We presented our first exhibition, Manufacturing Fire, at Little Berlin curatorial collective in April 2014 and raised issues about postindustrial textile mill fires, explored unknown histories of racism, and placed the work of activists in the neighborhood into a longer context.
In our second year working in North Philadelphia, we took our work to the next level. Last summer, campers from Tree House Books became agents of history by conducting oral histories with community leaders and then translating the audio into the visual of collage with artist Theodore A. Harris. Last fall, we amplified a peace rally at the Philadelphia Urban Creators farm with an oral history and memory mapping station, as well as an entire spread of food for all attendees. We partnered with the Free Breakfast Program art collective to host a block party in a vacant lot on N. 13th Street and projected art on the walls at sunset to reuse the space as a museum. My assistant and I spent long hours researching in archives across the city to select images for reproduction in the exhibit, and I invited a group of artists and historians to present work in They Say They Gonna Build that could creatively raise questions about university expansion and community building.
On Friday, a group of Temple University students came to They Say They Gonna Build for guidance on how to better work with neighbors. On Saturday, a middle-aged man named Charles brought his young family to see the show so that they could know their history– he is a lifelong resident of Diamond Street and Temple graduate. He grabbed my arm and thanked me for the project, and I shook the hand of each member of his family. Laura, a young historian and environmental studies student from Swarthmore College, came to the show to orient her own research on North Philadelphia. Our work matters to every person we meet.
But we want to do more. We want to pop up at Philadelphia schools with our exhibitions, we want to park at senior centers with a comfortable and accessible seat to share stories, and we want to get started with our work in our next two neighborhoods– Chinatown North and Fairhill– BUT WE CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT. Please donate today and be part of the legacy of this heartfelt, civic-driven cultural project. We need you, and we believe Philadelphia needs us to capture and exhibit fleeting histories as the city rapidly changes. And if you cannot donate, SPREAD THE WORD and VISIT US on Saturdays through June 27th 12-5 p.m. to see our work firsthand.
Thank you for your support, time, and friendship.