Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Difficult Year for Museums

The Wall Street Journal took a moment to look back at how the economic downturn affected the museum world during 2009.

Needless to say, it wasn't pretty.

The article focuses on art museums, but the staff layoffs, canceled programs and limited hours of the past year certainly devastated history museums and historic sites as well. Government agencies focused on history and museums suffered too. The city of Philadelphia threatened to close the Philadelphia Historical Commission, among other agencies, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission laid off 85 staff.

Here's to hoping that 2010 brings better financial news for our historical and cultural institutions.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Power of Presidential Names

I came across a fun exploration of memory and commemoration today on the New York Times' Lens Blog. The blog is presenting a series of portraits of people living in the New York area who share presidential names.

The portraits are truly beautiful photographs, but equally interesting to me is the brief written commentary about what it was like to share a president's name, and in some cases, audio snippets of the person portrayed.

Today's feature: Abraham Lincoln, born in Ghana and now a DJ in the Bronx.

So far, the series has also profiled a George Washington (prisoner), Thomas Jefferson (formerly homeless vet), John Quincy Adams (preacher), Ulysses Grant (retired postal worker), Calvin Coolidge (alpaca farmer), Herbert Hoover (artist), John F. Kennedy (accountant), Richard Nixon (retired firefighter) and Ronald Reagan (retired auto worker).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Update: Hearing on Ethnic Parades Canceled

In the wake of last week's meeting / shouting match between city officials and Mummers Parade representatives, City Council has canceled its planned Tuesday hearing on "the challenges faced by the City's ethnic and cultural parades, and what measures the City can take to ensure that these important traditions are preserved."

Perhaps the Nutter administration is about to re-subsidize city costs for the parades?

Click here for the Inquirer's latest report on the issue, and here for my first post about the hearing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Web Resource About African American Historic Sites in Philly

My summer project is now live at

Working as a graduate intern at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, I updated and expanded the Alliance's inventory of African American historic sites in the city.

We then turned that inventory into a searchable Web resource, and I wrote a (very) brief historic context statement for the sites. You can read more about the project in my earlier posts here and here. also published a story about the project earlier this week.

The inventory currently includes 440 sites, including churches, schools, businesses, private homes, and more. You can search by neighborhood, zip code, type of historic resource, or site name. You can also browse the inventory by name or by neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Everyone Loves a Parade

With only a month left til the Mummers Parade, City Council is showing its support for the city's "ethnic and cultural parades" . . . by, um, holding a public hearing.

The Council Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs plans to hold a public hearing next week on "the challenges faced by the City's ethnic and cultural parades, and what measures the City can take to ensure that these important traditions are preserved."

(In case you'd like to attend, the hearing is scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 8 at 10 am in Room 400 of City Hall.)

Why do parades need a show of support? It's all about money, of course.

In recent years, the city spent about $3 million annually to cover costs for parades' police overtime and post-parade cleanup. But Mayor Michael Nutter pulled the plug on that when the economy tanked.

Parade organizers are scrambling to replace the city's subsidy. Earlier this fall, the organizers of the Columbus Day Festival canceled their parade because they couldn't cover the new city costs.

The Inquirer editorialized then in support of the city's position: "Welcome to the new economic reality. For those who enjoy the parade revelry, this is a good time to show your loyalty and support."

Hear, hear. The city barely made it out of the last budget crisis. It can't subsidize large events without attention to costs. And if that means a smaller Mummers Parade, so be it.

UPDATE: City officials and Mummers representatives met on Friday Dec. 4 to hash out the parade's costs from the city. According to the Inquirer, there was a lot of shouting.