A recent conversation with Jeff Cohen helped me understand what kind of project Classicizing Philadelphia will become. Jeff teaches in Bryn Mawr’s Growth and Structure of Cities program, and he knows as much as anyone about the architectural history of Philadelphia. We talked about image quality, rights and permissions, and the Classicizing Philadelphia mobile app now under development. Jeff, as I remember, was the first to use the term “public history.” It’s a good one. Classicizing Philadelphia has three announced goals:
- To be a focal point for research on classical receptions in Philadelphia
- To be a gateway to documents of classical reception in Philadelphia collections
- To inform the citizens of Philadelphia about and engage them in our city’s long conversation with Greece and Rome
Of these goals, the second and third are emerging as the most important. Classicizing Philadelphia is not evolving into an archive or a research collection; the project doesn’t have the resources in time or money, and there are many fine digital archives for research into the cultural history of Philadelphia (several of these are on the “Resources” page of the Classicizing Philadelphia web site). Instead, Classicizing Philadelphia will be a place to look if you recognize “Patriae Pater” as Latin and wonder what it’s doing in Rembrandt Peale’s “porthole” portrait of Washington at PAFA, or if you’re curious about the columned tombs in Laurel Hill Cemetery. Classicizing Philadelphia’s primary audience will not be scholars in universities. This project is for Philadelphia’s citizens, and for anyone who wants to join the long conversation. It will be digital public history. Thanks, Jeff.