Photo via Philadelphia Public History Truck Facebook
“Basically, the grant is exploratory to see if the truck would actually work as a curriculum model in a more long-term way,” said Erin Bernard, a public historian and graduate student at Temple University.
Bernard piloted the History Truck concept in East Kensington last year, where the community was engaged around a series of events and activities looking at the history of the area. The idea, she said, “Was a low-budget, DIY-style project that went really well, and the community response was amazing.”
It was funded with microgrants, including one from Philly Stake, and “out of my own pocket,” Bernard added.
With support from Barra, the truck will canvass North Philadelphia, partnering with grassroots community groups for roughly 12 months. Its first stop was Tree House Books in July, where it collaborated on a cultural literacy project for youth. The artist Theodore Harris also contributed.
“Public historians are trying to present history that serves the immediate needs of communities,” Bernard explained. “It’s a discipline exploring the critical link between smart work and heart work, dealing with people in the community and problems that are real.”
Set to graduate in May, Bernard is happy to be working in Temple’s backyard.
“My first inclination was to try and work in North Philadelphia,” she said. “Into the Kensington process, I knew I was going to North Philly next.”
Chinatown North and Fairhill are neighborhoods that may be targeted in the future, according to Bernard.-30-
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