Pool: A Social History of Segregation Exhibition

22 Mar - 8 Oct 2022
Fairmount Water Works 640 Waterworks Dr. Philadelphia, PA 19130


Archival image at the Kelly Pool, the Fairmount Water Works, 1962. Photo courtesy of the Fairmount Water Works and Philadelphia Water Department Collection.

Fund for the Water Works presents Pool: A Social History of Segregation, a multidisciplinary exhibition exploring the history and present-day implications of segregated swimming pools in America.

After its original opening was delayed by historic flooding caused by Hurricane Ida, the restored exhibition now opens to the public on World Water Day 2022.

Set inside the former Kelly Pool within Fairmount Water Works, a National Historic Landmark, the exhibition centers on “Contemporary Voices,” a series of audio and visual vignettes projected on the floor. The presentation features digital storytelling from contemporary swimming icons, activists, and scholars sharing how swimming has affected their lives.

Featured voices include:

  • Famed Philadelphia Swim Coach Jim Ellis, the subject of the feature film Pride starring Terrence Howard as Ellis
  • Simone Manuel, the first Black swimmer in Olympic history to win an individual gold medal in swimming (2016)
  • Dr. Jeff Wiltse, scholar, historian, and author of Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America, (and the inspiration of this project)

The 4,700-square-foot exhibition also includes site-specific installations and experiences generated by Philadelphia artists, including an animated film about the history of swimming directed by playwright, director, and Pew Fellow James Ijames and Whispers From the Deep, a multimedia storytelling artwork by Pew Fellow Homer Jackson.