This spring more than 400 people in the Philadelphia area participated in the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable, our series of public programs to help shape The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. The Encyclopedia team and our partners at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania organized this year-long series of programs focusing on major themes in Philadelphia’s history. With funding from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, each program is preceded by an essay published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on the web site of WHYY’s Newsworks.org. The June 23 program on the theme “Cradle of Liberty,” held at the National Constitution Center, was taped by C-Span and is now available for viewing online in the C-SPAN Video Library.
We had another full house this week to conclude the current series of the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable. If you missed it, you can read JoAnn Greco’s coverage in PlanPhilly, and we will soon post a written summary and audio recording of the discussion. Our thanks to everyone who supported and participated in our year-long series of explorations of Philadelphia’s famous phrases, from the City of Brotherly Love to City of Neighborhoods. Watch for announcements of future programs.
What forms should the Encyclopedia take? What information is needed, and how might this benefit the city and region? We began this conversation at the Civic Partnership and Planning Workshop in April. Summaries of all workshop sessions are now posted on this site, with opportunities to comment. See “Join the Discussion” on the menu bar above or go directly to the workshop program page for links to the summaries. Your input will help shape the direction of this project.
We’re looking forward to our next program in the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable series — “Workshop of the World,” coming up this Wednesday, October 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Tacony branch of the Free Library. Registration is open on our events page, and our new essay on this theme, written by Walter Licht of the University of Pennsylvania, is now published on our web site.
For those who are attending Wednesday, we are pleased to let you know of a couple of added features for the event. First, light refreshments will be available prior to the program, so feel free to arrive anytime after 6 p.m. and enjoy some food and informal conversation prior to the program. Also, we will conclude the evening with the short film about Tacony, “Bridging Yesterday with Tomorrow,” which was produced as part of Scribe Video Center’s Precious Places Community History Project. Looking forward to another informative, enlightening, and enjoyable discussion of Philadelphia’s history and experience!
During February, we will visit four branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia to spread the word about the Encyclopedia project and gather public input. Look for us at the Holmesburg branch on Tuesday, February 2, 4-6 p.m.; the Lovett branch on Thursday, February 11, 3-5 p.m.; Walnut Street West on Tuesday, February 16, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.; and the Tacony branch on Saturday, February 27, 1-3 p.m. A suggestion box will be placed in each branch after the information session to gather additional suggestions for Encyclopedia topics.
AOL’s City’s Best captures the essence of our project in a post this week by Gerry Johnson:
Sure, it’s an encyclopedia, but don’t confuse this with an outdated dinosaur like Britannica, the relic from the ’80s that took up an entire wall in your grandfather’s living room. This project includes an online volume, making it relevant and accessible in today’s digital world and giving readers a voice in the content.
Johnson takes note of the energetic participation in the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable discussions, which are helping to shape the Encyclopedia’s contents. Next up is a discussion of Philadelphia as a “Holy Experiment,” on Thursday, April 14, at Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street. To sign up, visit our Events page — and watch for the essay “Holy Experiment” on Sunday, April 10, in the Currents section of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on this web site, and on Newsworks.org.
This week we begin a year-long exploration of Philadelphia’s civic identity, and we hope to spark a widespread conversation with a series of thought-provoking essays published in partnership with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and WHYY’s Newsworks.org. Often, these essays will be paired with distinctive works of art from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Across multiple online platforms, in the Sunday Currents section of the Inquirer, and through public events, we invite you to reflect on the famous phrases that have defined our city — first up, “The City of Brotherly Love.” At Newsworks.org, you’ll find the discussion underway with video interviews.
These activities also help us to build The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. We envision each of the thematic essays as a gateway for expanding layers of content, and we will invite participants in our public event series — The Greater Philadelphia Roundtable — to help us determine topics to represent each theme. To see what’s coming up in the year ahead, check out our events calendar.
Please join us for this unprecedented investigation of the ideas and themes that lie at the heart of our shared history. (If you need more incentive, our first event this Wednesday, March 23, will be followed by a reception co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.) Our thanks to the Pennsylvania Humanities Council for support of the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable series, and to the many civic partners who have helped us to organize these events.
We have posted summaries of the presentations and discussion at the first session of the Greater Philadelphia Roundtable, “Striving for Equality: LGBT Activism in Greater Philadelphia.” We encourage continuing discussion online and welcome additional suggestions of related topics. Watch for additional summaries of roundtables to be posted approximately two weeks after each event.
One of our goals in the Encyclopedia project is to connect the past with the present, and another is to inspire forward-looking responses to public issues. These goals certainly were evident at our May 10 roundtable program on “The Green Country Town,” which began with this phrase from William Penn but also generated a lively discussion of ideas for the future. In addition to the topic suggestions we received for the Encyclopedia (now posted with our other topics nominations), our comment cards yielded a number of suggestions for city parks. Among them:
- Use parks to teach horticultural plant care.
- Make Logan Circle a pedestrian park again.
- Redesign Independence Mall.
- Use vacant land for temporary sculptures and parks.
- Close Kelly Drive to traffic.
- Connect green spaces in the city with signage or deliberate planting or physical connections between green/open spaces.
These are just a few of the ideas that emerged from the audience of nearly 100 people who attended the program, held at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Watch for a complete summary of the evening’s discussion to be posted later this month — and visit our Events page to register for the next opportunity to help shape the Encyclopedia project. Thanks to all who made the “Green Country Town” roundtable such a great success.
Thanks to our new friends in Holmesburg for hosting our first branch library information table. We collected many new ideas for the Encyclopedia as people in this active library came in to do homework, browse for new books and DVDs, and catch up with their neighbors. The suggestions we received are posted on our “Nominate a Topic” page, and the suggestion box will remain at the library for the rest of February. For more information sessions at branch libraries this month, check out our events list.