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Winter 2019-20 Update

February 14, 2020

The Lenfest Center continues to work with our partners in the City and the board of the Philadelphia History Museum to shepherd the transfer of the 130,000+ historical artifacts from the City to Drexel University. This exciting project began with the closure of the Philadelphia History Museum, and our process to transfer the collection has been vetted through three public meetings, the Attorney General’s office, and many Philadelphia-area stakeholders. While we wait for the legal status of the collection to be determined, the Center, supported by City funding, is conducting an in-depth collection evaluation. As each item is examined, researched, cleaned, and its provenance checked, we gain a deeper and broader understanding of what our project lead, Dr. Page Talbott, calls this remarkable “collection of collections.”

To date, Dr. Talbott and her team—which includes graduate students from Drexel’s Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program, as well as undergraduate co-ops—have inventoried over 40,000 objects and are well on their way to updating the object database to reflect current location information. They have also begun the massive job of evaluating every item in the collection in terms of relevance to Philadelphia’s history and condition, among other criteria. The data collected as part of this evaluation will provide a dictionary of manufacturers, makers, and artists, whose names will ultimately be searchable on the collection website. Dr. Talbott acknowledges, “We are learning new and exciting facts about the people who gave these items, those who owned them, and those who made them, allowing us to tell even richer stories than we knew before.”

Drexel staff working with former Philadelphia History Museum collection
Drexel staff working with former Philadelphia History Museum collection.

We are delighted to report that the Colonial Academic Alliance, of which Drexel is a proud partner, made a grant to the Lenfest Center to work in partnership with colleagues at William & Mary and the University of Delaware to use the Philadelphia History Museum collections as the basis for innovation in public engagement and teaching with historical collections. The work will begin in earnest in spring 2020 and will feature three classes taught by Drexel faculty: Art History Research Methods (Elizabeth Milroy, PhD, Department Head, Art & Art History, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design); Exhibitions and Programming (Derek Gillman, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Senior Adviser to the President for University Collections, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program); and new material culture courses, including global design at world’s fairs and decorative arts (Joseph Larnerd, PhD, Assistant Professor, Art History). It will also feature a special workshop in the collections, travel to other collections, and ultimately the production of a toolkit for using historical collections in teaching and in community engagement.

Also, in support of our work with these amazing collections, we are fortunate to have received a generous grant from the McLean Contributionship that will enable us to ensure that the collections are kept in optimal climate conditions.

The Lenfest Center Faculty Fellows project begun in fall 2018, which brought together faculty from four different colleges at Drexel to partner with Wyck Historic House, Garden & Farm in Germantown, has evolved and grown with additional funding from a Drexel Areas of Research Excellence (DARE) grant and has led to proposals for outside funding. With DARE funding, the research that our faculty began can now be activated into an extraordinary new program: Sharing Our Stories at Wyck. We are bringing together a group of community members to share and celebrate Germantown’s history, and we will be gathering stories from the community that can be shared in new (and old) ways—for example, through a series of murals mounted on Wyck’s fence along Germantown Avenue that people can also interact with using smartphones. We will be working with Wyck and the Germantown community to create an “Archive Without Walls”: a computer-based repository and resource for local history that brings together personal testimonials (stories) and materials on the people and places of Germantown’s vibrant past and present. Wyck’s Archive Without Walls will also make historical documents and material about Wyck and Germantown—housed in different archives across Philadelphia—more accessible to the community and broader public.

We are thrilled to announce a raft of new and upcoming co-op placements, funded by the Lenfest Foundation’s generous endowment grant to the Center, with our wonderful non-profit partners. New or continuing in the program to employ Drexel students are: Ars Nova, Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Girard College Historical Collections, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Brandywine Workshop, Main Line Art Center, The Woodlands, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, the Barnes Foundation, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Drexel co-op students
Left to right: Alyssa Noelle Geniza at the Woodlands; Nicholas Kozankywycz setting up for Lenfest Institute for Journalism Diversity Summit at Asian Arts Initiative.

And as always, we love for our students to tell us about their Lenfest-funded co-op experiences. We are so grateful to our non-profit partners for making our students feel at home, for offering them such great guidance and supervision, and for allowing them to explore the excitement and challenges of work for cultural non-profits!

“…I have learned so much at The Woodlands. As a marketing major, many would expect me to work at a big corporation or a firm of some sort, but I feel as if this opportunity has given me so much more than a typical office job…I have done so much here. I give tours of the mansion and grounds…, learn constantly about the history of the landscape and mansion, interact with visitors, write blog posts, manage social media, survey trees…really, I do everything!…I am so grateful for all the experiences I had at this wonderful hidden gem of West Philadelphia!”
—Alyssa Noelle Geniza, Marketing and Business Analytics major; co-op at Woodlands Mansion & Cemetery, Fall 2019

“I had an amazing co-op experience, and I got to learn so much about working in an art gallery and being a part of a marketing team…I [will take] this experience with me wherever I go. It was such a pleasure getting to work with the team at MLAC, and it really felt like I was a part of the team while I was with them full-time. I am now working part-time, and I am just really thankful for the people I get to work with and the experience!”
—Julia Krawiec, Design & Merchandising major; co-op at Main Line Art Center, Fall 2019

“I’ve had an amazing time in my role as Communications Associate at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. I have learned so much about the world of journalism (specifically local news) that I only wish I was exposed to it sooner…I’ve been exposed to many parts of both the journalism and non-profit sectors. I cannot thank the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships and its funders enough for the opportunity to work here. This is an experience that will stick with me for a lifetime…”
—Nicholas Kozankywycz, Marketing major; co-op at Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Fall 2019