Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, The Library Company of Philadelphia is America's oldest cultural institution and was once the largest public library in America, until the Civil War. Its mission is to foster scholarship in and increase public understanding of American history before 1900 by preserving, interpreting, and making available its non-circulating collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art.
New approaches to exhibition design and historical interpretation consider public engagement with controversial artifacts held in the Library Company’s collection that reflect American society and culture from the 17th through the 19th century. The organization collaborates with community members to choose artifacts to interrogate and recontextualize, informing exhibitions that include the perspectives of people represented in or harmed by these objects and their histories. The project encompasses three prototype presentations, expansion of the Library Company’s digital exhibition offerings, a culminating installation, and a toolkit for researchers and scholars addressing how challenging collections can be transformed into collaborative conversations.
Explore the project website.
The total grant amount represents project funding plus an additional 20% in unrestricted general operating support.