Drexel Awarded Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Grant to Help Atwater Kent Collection Uncover Philadelphia’s Diverse Historical Narratives

Souvenir Rope.
Souvenir Rope. From the 1926 Dempsey V. Tunney World Championship Boxing Contest held at the Sesqui-Centennial Stadium. Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel University. 

Drexel University announced today that it has been awarded a $360,500 grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (the Center), that will be used to help the Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel elevate diverse voices from across Philadelphia through immersive community storytelling and a podcast series that will reintroduce the diverse histories and experiences of Philadelphians.

The Center’s grant, which includes both project funding and an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support, will help Drexel augment a large exhibition that it is mounting, Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic. The exhibition will convey the breadth of the AKC, from 1700s objects dredged from the Delaware River to 1800s abolitionist artifacts, to 1900s scrapbooks rescued from the trash. In this project, First Person Arts (FPA) will enable immersive community storytelling informed by and responding to the exhibition, and WHYY will produce the stories in a podcast series across its digital and broadcast platforms.

“Pew Center for Arts & Heritage grants really challenge arts and culture organizations to think differently about what they offer to the widest range of audiences,” said Rosalind Remer, senior vice provost for collections and exhibitions. “So, it was really exciting to develop a proposal with First Person Arts and WHYY that would broaden access and engagement with the historical materials in our care. We’re thrilled to launch this initiative with the Center’s support, as we continue the planning of Philadelphia Revealed.”

In June 2023, Drexel was awarded $850,000 directly from The Pew Charitable Trusts, which funds The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, to help expand the number of items publicly available online to approximately 7,000 over three years; support the conservation of artifacts; and fund a community lending program that will bring pieces of Philadelphia’s history directly to schools, community centers and library branches.

Drexel, as the steward of the Atwater Kent Collection, aims to increase access to this historical material by inviting diverse communities to engage with its art and artifacts from Philadelphia’s history.

In summer 2023, Drexel offered the public its first in-person glimpse of materials from the Collection with its inaugural exhibition Seeing Philadelphia, which presented views of Philadelphia in prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and maps from the Collection, paired with the photography and writing of Drexel Writers Room students and community members who responded to these views. Philadelphia Revealed: Unpacking the Attic will focus on what it means to tell multiple and diverse stories of Philadelphians over 300 years.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage awarded over 40 grants and fellowships totaling $9 million in support of Philadelphia-area cultural organizations and artists. The grants will fund public events and programs that celebrate the diverse and creative contributions of local artists and tell personal stories of prominent Philadelphians.

For more information about the Atwater Kent Collection, click here; and for more information about The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, click here.