Sunday, October 11, 2009

Community History

Penn staff and students have launched an impressive new(ish) resource called the West Philadelphia Community History Center.

I attended a lecture a couple weeks ago to hear more about the site from co-creators Walter Licht, a history professor, and Mark Lloyd, director of the University Archives. They hope the site will be especially useful to Penn students and K-12 students and teachers, but I can see plenty of community uses as well.

Licht knew first-hand that his Penn students perpetually knew little about their new neighborhood. Inspired by the extensive collection of West Philly ephemera donated to the University Archives by the family of Ruth Branning Molloy (Licht's friend and neighbor), Licht and Lloyd decided to create an online clearinghouse for West Philly history.

The site launched earlier this year with much help and effort from other University Archives staff and students from a class last spring.

So far, they've written a history of West Philly from pre-history through 1907, and individual neighborhood histories for eight smaller neighborhoods within West Philly. They've also linked to more than a dozen historical maps and posted census statistics, a detailed bibliography, and West-Philly-centric curriculum guides for K-12 teachers.

I'll be interested to see their next steps on this site. Only time will tell how / whether this site will connect with other online Philly history sites that are popping up, like, the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network, or the PhilaPlace site that the Historical Society of Pennsylvania plans to launch this fall.

UPDATE: This post corrects the provenance of the Ruth Branning Malloy collection.

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