‘Seeing Philadelphia,’ a Selection From the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University Goes on Display

The inaugural exhibition of the Atwater Kent Collection
at Drexel, ‘Seeing Philadelphia’ will present a multiplicity of city perspectives spanning 300 years.
Benjamin Ridgway Evans Broad & Master Streets
Benjamin Ridgway Evans Broad & Master Streets, SW Corner (home of actor Edwin Forrest), 1874 Pen and Ink and Watercolor on Paper Museum Acquisition (AKM) / Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel.

With its inaugural exhibition of the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University this summer, Seeing Philadelphia, Drexel will offer the public its first in-person glimpse of materials from the Collection since becoming its steward. The exhibition presents views of Philadelphia in prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and maps from the Collection, paired with the photography and writing of students and community members who responded to these views.

The exhibition invites the public to see Philadelphia through different lenses. Bird's-eye views and intimate streetscapes are among some of the city perspectives guests will enjoy. The AKC contains evocative and, in some cases, groundbreaking examples of these varied views of Philadelphia.  

Seeing Philadelphia will run from Saturday, July 1, through Tuesday, Sept. 5, in the Frances M. Maguire Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Through a special arrangement with PAFA, this exhibition, in the Samuel M. V. Hamilton Building at 128 N. Broad Street, is open free to the public. Hours are Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“There are so many ways to ‘see’ Philadelphia,” said Stacey Swigart, director of the Atwater Kent Collection. “From prints, photographs, and paintings that showcase the city’s evolution —including examples of Benjamin Ridgway Evans workmanlike drawings of buildings and streetcorners  in the late 19th century — and those same views taken some 60 years later by a photographer employed by the Federal Works Project Administration (WPA).”  

The selection of AKC material will be on display alongside images and writings produced through TRIPOD at Writers Room, an intergenerational storytelling program supported by Canon Solutions America, where students from Drexel, Paul Robeson High School, and YouthBuild Philadelphia collaborate with older community residents, using writing and photography to document their experiences of life in Philadelphia.

Showcasing this selection is the first of many endeavors Drexel is planning to bring the AKC into public view, inviting an active response from its audience. Seeing Philadelphia is the first of two exhibitions planned for the public at PAFA. The second, Philadelphia Revealed, will focus on what it means to tell multiple and diverse stories of Philadelphians over 300 years.

The AKC includes an extraordinary assemblage of some 130,000 historical artifacts and archival materials relating to Philadelphia and American history. Over 3,000 objects are available digitally on the AKC's growing online database, accessible to the public at Philadelphiahistory.org.

Drexel continues to evaluate, research and organize the materials in the AKC. The University will work with Philadelphia's many institutions and cultural organizations to ensure that items can be borrowed, displayed, interpreted, and once again, appreciated throughout the city.

For more information about Seeing Philadelphia visit: http://www.philadelphiahistory.org/3814-2/