Founded in 1824 in Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) is home to over 600,000 printed items and more than 21 million manuscripts and graphic items. Its collections encompass more than 350 years of America’s history. A 2010 Center grant supported HSP’s efforts to plan for improved physical and technological access to its records by rethinking its historic building, constructed in the 1830s. HSP received Center support for its 2014 project An Artist Embedded in History, an immersive, two-year project in which Obie award-winning playwright Ain Gordon “embedded” himself in the organization’s daily functions in order to reflect on the complex processes of how history gets documented and preserved. In 2017, the organization received a Center grant to present Audience Embedded, engaging Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community in developing new programming, inspired by the history preserved in the collections of HSP and Taller Puertorriqueño.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania presented PhilaPlace, a neighborhood history project and interactive website. Inviting community members to share their personal histories, PhilaPlace joined together first-person accounts with historical records, videos, maps, and images to present an interpretive picture of the rich history, culture, and architecture of Philadelphia past and present. The project was complemented by a series of community programs, including workshops for teachers, trolley tours, and installations.