Monday, March 18, 2013
Over the recent decades we have grown in a number of directions—acquiring large and important private collections such as those of Michael Zinman and Robert L. McNeil, Jr.; adding a range of fellowships and creating a residential research center in the Cassatt House; undertaking the digitization of our collections; and increasing programs and collaborative partnerships. When we acquired the Carriage House on Irving Street behind the main library building, we knew we needed space to expand into, but we soon realized that we would have to do some strategic thinking in order to prioritize the needs properly.
Our shelves are overfull, but how much additional stack space do we need? What would happen to those storage needs if our collecting scope shifted by a couple of years? How much of our rare material do we want to digitize? Do we want to do this in partnership with other organizations, or on our own? Will we build new web interfaces for our digital files to allow them to be searched and displayed in a variety of ways? And, perhaps most urgently, Where is our next generation of members? What is most appealing to them about what we do?
Formulating answers to these questions and more has involved the entire staff and Board of the Library Company over the last six months, as well as some outside experts in digital humanities, organizational leadership, and public outreach, and we are very much looking forward to sharing the results with our constituents. Look for the public announcement of our final plan later this year!
If She Stood tells the story of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, a multi-racial collective of women formed in 1883 which fought to end slavery, protect the lives of newly freed people, and promote causes such as literacy and nutrition. For the production, playwright and director Ain Gordon and filmmaker Nadine Patterson researched the Library Company’s holdings in 19th-century African American and Women’s history. Our daguerreotypes of unidentified women were included in promotional materials. The accompanying exhibition, Freedom, Fire, and Promiscuous Meetings: The Philadelphia Community Lyceum, will include reproductions of materials from our collection, such as J. C. Wild’s 1838 lithograph Destruction by Fire of Pennsylvania Hall.
Where Heaven’s Dew Divides takes its name from an 18th-century Methodist prayer and focuses on the importance of religion for Philadelphia’s African American community during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mixing dance forms, improvised vocalization, video projection, and original music and song, the production aims to capture the religious fervor and antislavery activism of early African American churches. Performers and choreographers Germaine Ingram and Leah Stein also conducted research in the Library Company’s collections and used images of key religious figures such as the Rev. Richard Allen for promotional materials. Visual materials from our holdings are also likely to be included in the performance as projected images.
If She Stood will be performed at the Painted Bride Art Center from April 26 to 28 and May 3 to 5. The accompanying exhibition will be on view at the Painted Bride from April 5 to May 18. Where Heaven’s Dew Divides is at the Kimmel Center from April 17 to 19.
Clarifying that he is not attempting to replicate the iconic Rau photographs, but to create new work that seeks to mine the same vein, Mr. Froio documents the rights of way, interchanges, towers, stations, and miscellany of what was once the world’s largest corporation. Clearly as moved by the visionary engineering feats performed by the Pennsy as by the artistic mastery of Rau, Froio mourns the loss of much of our railroad infrastructure and culture even as he acknowledges that it is still a dynamic, evolving system.
The lecture was held in conjunction with Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads. On view through April 19, the exhibition documents the range of projects that the famous Philadelphia architect undertook while working on commissions for America’s greatest railroad systems: the Philadelphia & Reading, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania.
Michael Froio has exhibited his work at the Biggs Museum of American Art, Woodmere Art Museum, Mainline Art Center, the University of the Arts, and Moore College of Art and Design. He was awarded a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in 2009, and a Travel Grant from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists in 2007.
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