Temple University’s History Truck Plans 12 Months of Events And Exhibits in North Philadelphia

Funding from The Barra Foundation also supports Philadelphia Public History Truck becoming a permanent part of Temple’s M.A. in Public History, guaranteeing academic credits for graduate students who manage the mobile museum.

PHILADELPHIA (September 7, 2014) – The Center for Public History at Temple University is proud to announce a generous award of $85,000 from The Barra Foundation in support of the Philadelphia Public History Truck. Funding will support a full, 12-month exhibit cycle in North Philadelphia, will underwrite a new web portal where Philadelphians will have permanent access to the museum’s extensive oral history archives and will help the truck become a permanent feature in the university’s master’s in public history program.

“This award is significant,” according to Seth C. Bruggeman, director of the Center for Public History, “not only because it recognizes History Truck’s commitment to Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, but because it invests in the future by helping us train a new generation of community-engaged historians.”

History Truck is an actual, renovated food truck currently under direction of Erin Bernard, who first conceived the project as part of her master’s thesis. The truck is a mobile museum that tells the story of Philadelphia neighborhoods. Unlike other museums, History Truck creates exhibits collaboratively with its audiences. Young historians from Temple’s graduate program in Public History travel the city inviting neighbors to design exhibits about their own community’s history. Exhibits are planned directly out of the back of the truck at neighborhood block parties. History Truck aspires to bring history to Philadelphians who have not typically felt welcomed in museums or – more significantly – haven’t been invited to participate.

Bernard explains that “the big inspiration for History Truck was to make museums accessible in terms of cost, location, and process. In designing how we would work, I wanted to serve communities based on their immediate needs. History Truck spends time listening and creating with the communities who need service most. [It presents] stories that Philadelphians are asking us to produce—not the stories we are accustomed to seeing in the media about these places.”

“I think there is a good chance that most Philadelphians are dealing with similar challenges,” she adds, “and if we can connect people across typical neighborhood borders when we travel, it is possible for us to make borders seem strange and to diffuse some of the staunch segregation of this city.”

A key feature of The Barra Foundation grant is its support for the Center for Public History’s plan to integrate History Truck into Temple’s MA program in Public History. The center plans for each new cohort of students to manage the truck for one year. Students will receive academic credit for developing community partnerships, crafting exhibits, compiling oral histories and managing History Truck’s budget—all skills that transfer directly to public history careers.

“Public history,” according to Bruggeman, “happens in communities. Our students succeed because they understand how to do history on the street AND in the archive. The Barra Foundation’s award will help us assure employers that every Temple public history grad has what it takes to make history meaningful and accessible to the broadest possible audience.”

History Truck’s upcoming events include a stop at the Urban Creators’ Home Grown Jazz Festival at Bartram’s Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Boulevard, on Saturday, September 13. It will host its first block party of the season at the Urban Creators farm, 2315 N. 11th St., on Saturday, October 25. For more information about the Philadelphia Public History Truck, please visit https://sites.temple.edu/centerforpublichistory.

Temple’s Center for Public History originated by 1985 to raise awareness of Philadelphia’s recent past and to improve training for historians seeking work beyond universities. Today, the CPH sustains an intensive two-year masters program in Public History with specialties in museum and historic site management, digital history, historical interpretation, and community history.

The Barra Foundation invests in innovation to inspire change that strengthens communities in the Greater Philadelphia region. It provides approximately $4 million in annual grants that are focused on supporting innovation in and across the fields Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services.

Seth Bruggeman
Director, Center for Public History

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