A New Director for Classicizing Philadelphia

On September 1, Classicizing Philadelphia welcomed a new director, Professor Bret Mulligan of Haverford College.  Bret describes himself as “an accidental classicist,” but if so, it was a happy accident.  His research concentrates on Late Antiquity, which is itself a culture of reception, and he has an ongoing interest in American classical reception and in digital humanities.  I am delighted to be able to hand Classicizing Philadelphia over to him.  He is the right person to take this project to the next level.

Classicizing Philadelphia began in December, 2009, when I took part in a Sawyer Seminar at Northwestern University and met the conference’s organizer, Prof. Kathryn Bosher.  Kate and her husband, the urbanist Dale Winling, had conceived the idea for a digital humanities project, Classicizing ChicagoClassicizing Philadelphia began officially with a conversation in Kate’s apartment in the next year, when she and Dale were on research leaves in Philadelphia.  It seems fitting to mark the end of my directorship by remembering Kate.  She died far too young, in 2013, just a year after she visited Bryn Mawr to meet with the Classicizing Philadelphia planning team.  I have thought of her often as I have worked on this project.

There is so much yet to do to document, study, and continue Philadelphia’s long conversation with Greece and Rome.  Just today (September 3) the Philadelphia Museum opens a new exhibit on the classicizing furniture designed by Benjamin Latrobe for the Philadelphia merchant William Wain and his wife, Mary.  The Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, writes about Philadelphia’s classically inspired Art Deco post office buildings.  And controversy continues over the proposed demolition of more of Philadelphia’s architectural heritage on Jewelers’ Row.  Bret Mulligan assumes the leadership of Classicizing Philadelphia at an exciting moment in our city’s long dialogue with classical antiquity.  I wish him and the project every success.

Lee T. Pearcy