Annual Report, 2009-2010

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Project Update, April 2010

One year following the initial Civic Partnership and Planning Workshop for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, held in April 2009, we offer the following update on the project. 

Activities during 2009-10 were aimed at envisioning the form and substance of the project; building partnerships; increasing public awareness and participation; promoting public dialogue about the Philadelphia region’s recent history and issues; and seeking funding to develop content and sustainable information technology.  During this year, we have received valuable support from the Barra Foundation, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities; the University of Pennsylvania Press, and partnering organizations and individuals who provided meeting space, publicity, and personnel for public programs.

The Civic Partnership and Planning Workshop generated enthusiasm among the representatives of many organizations (more than 150 groups were invited), received coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on WHYY, and resulted in a special issue of Cross-Ties, the newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.  The newsletter called attention to the Encyclopedia and other projects in the region engaged in humanities work as a form of civic investment. Building from the momentum of the workshop, a Civic Advisory Board and a Board of Associate Editors were formed.  Leadership for the project expanded in several ways over the past year:  Emma Lapsansky-Werner of Haverford College joined as a consulting editor; a Steering Committee was activated in January 2010; and a Digital Task Force convened in April 2010.

A web site for the Encyclopedia ( was established prior to the April 2009 planning workshop and significantly upgraded in January 2010.  The web site features the Encyclopedia’s first tangible public benefit, a bibliographic survey of scholarship about Philadelphia published since 1982, the year of publication of Philadelphia: A 300-Year History.  Several sample essays were commissioned and posted, with comment functions to allow for public review. The web site allows for public participation in the Encyclopedia project in several other ways: summaries of Encyclopedia-related programs are posted with comment functions to allow for additional participation; visitors to the site may nominate topics; and visitors may sign up for a list-serv to receive periodic updates about the project.  Over the past year, 180 individuals have subscribed to the list-serv.  In addition to this web site, additional electronic outreach occurs through event postings on

In March 2010, with support from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, we initiated the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable, a series of public programs that promote dialogue about recent history and issues while also seeking input about future content for the Encyclopedia.  Four pilot sessions were organized in cooperation with numerous partners at a variety of venues: the William Way Community Center; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; the Academy of Natural Sciences; and the African American Museum of Philadelphia.  When the four pilot sessions conclude, the partners in these roundtables will be invited to assess these sessions and consider ways of continuing and expanding the series.  Additional public outreach occurred during February and March 2010 with information tables at three branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  Following the information sessions, suggestion boxes at the libraries invited patrons to nominate topics and help identify ways that Philadelphia is distinctive and connected to the region, the nation, and the world.

While generating public interest, the project has not yet succeeded in gaining substantial financial support for content development or technology planning.  Applications for grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from Heritage Philadelphia were not successful.  These results are prompting renewed consideration of the “Encyclopedia” as a broadly collaborative community information project which may grow digitally and through public programming, with a printed volume to be “curated” in the future as one of many potential products.  An initial information technology project will begin this summer as the Encyclopedia editors coordinate content for a enhancement that will be developed by Azavea Inc. with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The project will combine the historic photos from PhillyHistory with brief stories from the Encyclopedia team in a unique experiment with the augmented reality features in the latest GPS-enabled smart phones.

Charlene Mires, Villanova University
Howard Gillette, Rutgers University-Camden
Randall Miller, St. Joseph’s University
Consulting Editors:
Gary Nash, UCLA
Emma Lapsansky-Werner, Haverford College

Steering Committee
The Editors and Consulting Editors
Tamara Gaskell, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Robert Lockhart, University of Pennsylvania Press
Derick Dreher, Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

Associate Editors

Carolyn Adams, Temple University
Steven Conn, Ohio State University
Matthew Countryman, University of Michigan
Richard Dilworth, Drexel University
Tamara Gaskell, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Judith Giesberg, Villanova University
Susan Klepp, Temple University
Cheryl Leibold, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Richard Newman, Rochester Institute of Technology
Daniel Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Philip Scranton, Rutgers University-Camden
George Thomas, University of Pennsylvania
Domenic Vitiello, University of Pennsylvania
Rebecca Yamin, John Milner Associates

Technical and Editorial Advisers
Eugenie Birch, University of Pennsylvania
Martha Brogan, University of Pennsylvania
Charles Hardy, West Chester University
Amy Hillier, University of Pennsylvania
Margaret Jerrido, Archival Consultant

Civic Advisory Board
African American Museum of Philadelphia
American Philosophical Society
Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Avenging the Ancestors Coalition
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
Fels Institute of Government
Foundations of the Union League
Free Library of Philadelphia
Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation
Historic Germantown
Historical Society of Pennsylvania / PhilaPlace
Independence Hall Association /
Independence National Historical Park
International Visitors Council
Library Company of Philadelphia
Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities
Mural Arts Program
National Archives – Mid-Atlantic Region
National Constitution Center
National Museum of American Jewish History
Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries
Philadelphia Department of Records
Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent
Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia
Young Involved Philadelphia

Digital Task Force
Ray Frohlich, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, chair
Robert Cheetham, Azavea Inc.
Elliott Shore, Bryn Mawr College
Robert Allen, Drexel University
Charles Hardy,
Walter Rice Jr., Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network
Bruce Laverty, Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network/ Athenaeum of Philadelphia
Patricia Washington, Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation
Tamara Gaskell, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Joan Saverino, Historical Society of Pennsylvania /
Carolyn Adams, Philadelphia Metropolitan Indicators Project
Joan Decker, Philadelphia Department of Records /
Elizabeth Nash, The Reinvestment Fund / Policymap
Martha Brogan, University of Pennsylvania
Amy Hillier, University of Pennsylvania
David McKnight, University of Pennsylvania
Robert Lockhart, University of Pennsylvania Press

Connecting the Past with the Present, Building Community, Creating a Legacy