It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… history truck?
You got that right.
The Philadelphia Public History Truck (PPHT) is a mobile museum devoted to telling the story of Philadelphia considering all of its parts from library records to oral histories, from old crumbling sidewalks to refurbished loft apartments, from death records to new babies on the block. The PPHT community curatorial experience involves the community in gathering, planning, and designing each exhibit, making it possible to connect all people to the process of museums. PPHT’s current curatorial focus is on neighborhood exhibits with the intention to increase local civic engagement and connect Philadelphia communities.
The Philadelphia Public History Truck’s mission is to make culture accessible through creative community building based in Philadelphia neighborhoods via history exhibits. Share stories, create, deliver history.
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.
PPHT’s newly-acquired “A Touch of Philly” truck (lovingly being shared with PPHT by East Kensington Neighbors Association President Jeff Carpineta) will traverse the city and bring people together in history exchanges and storytelling block parties to birth exhibits in tandem with historical research by young, local historians. In other words, this project is a fusion of archival research, oral history, and material culture study.
The goals? (These might shift slightly in wording as time moves forward.The goals:
1- Understanding Philadelphia contextually so that people across the city and beyond will understand Philadelphia’s past and people in a more complete way.
2- Connecting neighbors who would have never built a relationship otherwise. Empower communities to work together to address issues within neighborhoods.
3- Shifting the power of museum process from an institution to the community so that the artistic process and academic thesis behind exhibit designs are accessible literally and figuratively.
4- Helping public historians and arts professionals to better understand how a roaming pop-up museum can strengthen community engagement.
In 2013, the history truck is working on its first exhibit cycle in East Kensington with plans to mount its first exhibit and open in early 2014. Stay tuned.
This project is rooted in the M.A. Public History thesis of Erin Bernard at Temple University under advisor and Public History Coordinator Dr. Seth Bruggeman. However, this is not strictly a school project! This is an ongoing effort to create a new nonprofit organization devoted to cultural access in Philadelphia.
If you are interested in learning more about Erin’s plans for the Philadelphia Public History Truck, have or know of a specific neighborhood community center interested in partnering with PPHT, want to throw a storytelling block party, or simply have a question or comment, please reach out to Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.