Monument Lab Returns to Philadelphia

This Thursday – tomorrow!! – Monument Lab, a project headed by Associate Professor Paul Farber and partially sponsored by HCAH, returns! In this iteration, Monument Lab is part of Design Philadelphia downtown. In its own words, Monument Lab asks, “Through a series of art installations, public events, and community-sourced maps, the project asks a central guiding question: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?” This isn’t the first time DeCentered has covered Monument Lab – a number of students, including Aaliyah Allen ’18, worked on the project over the summer. Haverford’s involvement doesn’t end there: Hilary Brashear ’13 produced this video, which captures the presence of Monument Lab this past summer.

The opening event is happening TOMORROW at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, a few minutes walk from Jefferson station. Find out all the relevant details at the facebook event here. The opening is free and open to the public!

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New Post-Bac Fellow!

Christine Dickerson is the new Post-Baccalaureate Fellow with the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities. She attended Bryn Mawr College, majoring in the History of Art with an emphasis in film theory and production. As a working filmmaker, Christine strives to think critically about the mediums she engages; she blends photography, found footage, and interviews in a mode that welcomes experimentation. With the Hurford Center, Christine hopes to collaborate with students, faculty, and artists to help further the interdisciplinary engagements with the arts on campus. She brings with her a deep commitment to making space for critical practices as well as a cultivated familiarity with the three Colleges.

Stop by Stokes 108A to chat!


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Friends of Mauerpark

Last year, when I was studying abroad in Berlin, I was living with a host family ten minutes by foot from Mauerpark. I had heard that Sundays at Mauerpark were a fun time — with a flea market, karaoke, street musicians – but I didn’t make it there until a few weeks after I arrived in Berlin. On my first Sunday at Mauerpark, I knew right away that this was a special place; it was a living monument, a site, I noted in a blog post I wrote after my first visit, “that’s somehow both relaxing and totally breathing with life and energy”; there was an immediate sense of community at this former border zone dividing East and West. I tried to make it back to Mauerpark as many Sundays as I could that semester, and it also became a spot to meet up with friends on others day, too. The acute sense one gets there of both historical significance and present common spacemade it my favorite place in Berlin, and one of my favorite places on earth.

Imagine my surprise and excitement, then, when I saw an announcement on one of the Dining Center screens for an internship opportunity to work at and on behalf of Mauerpark. I pursued the internship, got it, and, on June 11, headed to Berlin to spend the summer with Freunde des Mauerparks (Friends of Mauerpark).

Friends of Mauerpark works to preserve Mauerpark as a communal space and to push for toward the expansion (or completion, depending on who you ask) of the park. It is made up of about 8 volunteer members, all of whom live in the neighborhood around Mauerpark.

Most of my duties with Friends of Mauerpark fell in one of two categories.

1) Info stand: At the famous Mauerpark Sundays, our group puts up a small pavilion where we answer visitors’ questions. While we can help with simple inquiries (Where is the toilet? When does Karaoke start?), we’re mostly there to talk about larger issues. On the one hand, the history of the site. On the other, the present and future political situation: particularly the Berlin government’s current plans to build 700 hundreds just to the north of Mauerpark, on a space that could have otherwise been used as an expansion site. The group is not entirely against residential development, but sees this plan as too massive and disruptive.

2) WebsiteThe group’s Website is filling few different roles. It’s the Friends of Mauerpark Website, but is also the primary Website of Mauerpark itself. Thus, it is both outward- and inward-looking. We had many discussions about what should stay in and what should come out; what’s up-to-date and what needs to be rewritten; how detailed to be; and so on. After that (or really, back and forth), I translated everything that wasn’t yet in English (which is to say, most of it) into English. I also had smaller projects and responsibilities: one week, I helped conceptualize and propose a communal, artistic repurposing of an unused building on the site; another, I built and filled a raised flowerbed to beautify the area around our storage unit at the park. Finally, I attended meetings: one with a Berlin politician and two with the Berlin Water Works; one community workshop with other Mauerpark-related groups; and of course Friends of Mauerpark’s monthly meeting.

I came to the park this summer hoping that it would provide a space to continue thinking about the historical issues that I was drawn to during my time as a History major at Haverford. And it has. But also gave me an incredible opportunity to engage with the very practical matters of local organization that go unnoticed to visitors—and went unnoticed to me as a visitor last year: real estate law and local zoning policy; questions of joining and leaving coalitions; infrastructural development (the city plans to build a sewer underneath the park starting in 2017); and much more.

I’m also working on another project, not for Friends of Mauerpark, but directly related. Today, the path of the Berlin Wall is now a 100-mile walkable and bikeable trail. There’s also Over the last few weeks, in 3- to 15-mile increments, I’ve been walking the Wall in order to write an article on what the death strip is, and does, today. The city of Berlin released an app to go along with the Wall, and I’m using the app as an entrance into understanding how the Wall is understood. It’s an exploration not only of the Wall’s remains as well as of digital and physical engagement with history. It’s also been a remarkable way to see corners and niches of Berlin — and the surrounding state of Brandenburg – that otherwise go unnoticed. Yesterday, after 100 miles (about 200,000 steps), I finished where I started: Checkpoint Charlie. And today, I left Berlin.

I’d like to once again thank the CPGC, the Humanities Center, Professor Farber, and of course Freunde des Mauerparks. Have a great year, Haverford!

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Theatrics at a City Council Meeting

Recently, I added a post to the forum which detailed the new cultural asset map which was being developed to help plan a new cultural district in Chester PA. Since then, a few events have occurred which have helped circulate information about the map and its contents to community residents. The culmination of project concluded in late July, with a presentation in front of city council occurring near the end of my internship with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

The start of the city council meeting started like any other. A roll call and overview of the itinerary began proceedings, but this time members of the public and media had packed the meeting room full. When the council meeting had ended, the mayor and city representatives relinquished their chairs and up came the community ensemble who had prepared a short skit. For some in the audience, it was their first time hearing details about the online map of the region’s cultural assets and the arts and theater based community gatherings which had led to its data collection. For others, it represented a project towards which they had made contributions over the past 18 months.

Drummer performing with the Ensemble

Drummer performing with the Ensemble

Don Newton led the way for the ensemble as they performed their 20 minute skit in front of the audience. At the end of the performance, members of the city council and ensemble together shared details about their involvement with the project while answering questions from the audience. Soon, audience members all had their smartphones in hand, scrolling through the cultural asset map.

The online map, of course, is just one step of the way to help revitalize the downtown Chester Cultural Corridor (C3), a region feature many arts and culture initiatives stretching down Avenue of the States from City Hall to Widener. While much of the city’s downtown areas remain boarded up, the corridor is an area which has begun to spring back to life, with the establishment of numerous art galleries, music cafe’s, and other cultural venues.

- Kevin Jin ’17



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Making a Timeline of Colonial Valley Zapotec Documents

As I wrote about about in July, I work as an RA on the Ticha Project (an online text database for Colonial Valley Zapotec) with Professor Brook Lillehaugen.  Most of my RA work is directly with the documents: photographing the documents (in Mexico), organizing the photographs, transcribing and analyzing the text, and copying metadata.  But lately I’ve been working on something quite different, with less linguistics and more HTML: a timeline!

To do this, I’m currently using TimelineJS, which creates a timeline using data Google Spreadsheet.  The work flow goes like this:

Screenshot of a Google Spreadsheet

Make timeline items in a Google Spreadsheet.

Screenshot of TimelineJS webpage

Import the spreadsheet to the TimelineJS generator.

Screenshot of timeline made with TimelineJS

Make a timeline hosted at KnightLab







However, while you can embed this timeline into a personal website, you can’t edit what it looks like.  To do that, you have to download the source files for TimelineJS and make a local version.  Today I got the local version working, although I haven’t had a chance to make any changes to the styling.  Here’s the new workflow:

Screenshot of a Google Spreadsheet

Make timeline items in a Google Spreadsheet.

Screenshot of a terminal at work.

Configure TImelineJS locally, and add the timeline to the website using Jekyll.

Screenshot of a timeline on the Ticha site.

Enjoy your personally crafted timeline!







The middle step is now a lot more intense, but I’m having a great time improving my skills in a  terminal (that’s what the green and black thing is called).  Look forward to a timeline of Colonial Valley Zapotec documents going live on the Ticha site soon!

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Light, Phoenix-like from the past

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Thanks to the generosity of Haverford’s Hurford Center, I have been pursuing independent research for my upcoming thesis project at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The archive is massive, but I have to the best of my abilities … Continue reading

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Circles and Cotton along a flowing river

You can think of the Mississippi Delta in circles. Circles of communities center around a landing on the River, a cotton gin, or a saw mill. Jewish communities center on cemeteries or synagogues. The question is, how do these circles of communities intersect, interact, and affect one another?

As I read many books (I still have many more to read and re-read), I was struck by Elliott Ashkenazi’s book “The Business of Jews in Louisiana.” While describing the buisness life of Jews in 19th century Louisiana, he emphacizes the way in which Jews fit well into the rigid class system, functioning as cotton factors and merchants. I thought about the way in which Jews, being so intimately involved in the cotton trade, really the foundation of the Southern economy, would have to become intimately involved in Southern life. Their fellow coreligionists in the North, on the other hand, would not experience this integration, in large part to the the North’s diversified economic structure.

I am not by any means saying that the cotton trade was the cause for assimilation. I don’t have enough evidence to make that claim. However, in the upcoming months, I hope to argue that the cotton trade played not only a significant, but an exceptional role in the integration of Jews not only into the economic fabric Southern society, but also into the cultural and social aspects that made Jewish Americans into loyal Jewish Southerners.

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Quakers, Haverford, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of my favorite parts about writing stories for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website is learning about the history of places I pass almost every time I am in Philly. In my last post I talked about the Wanamaker family that owned the Macy’s building, but recently I wrote about a site that hits a little closer to home.

This past week I wrote a story about the Arch Street Friends Meeting House (which you can read here: On Monday I was able to do my research for this story at Haverford, where I spent most of the day in special collections reading. It was really cool to be able to explore the library more than I do when I am writing papers for my classes. I also knew very little about Haverford’s Quaker history before writing this story. Every thing I knew came from brief discussions with the Quakers on campus and the Quaker style meetings held throughout the year. If you had told me there were different groups within the Society of Friends I’m not sure I would have believed you.

The Society of Friends was nicknamed the Quakers because of the way they supposedly quake during prayer meetings. Since I had already been to the Quaker Meeting House at Haverford I knew to expect a simple plain room with benches facing the center, but I had no clue that Quakers did not believe in hierarchies. Thus there are no tiers and the members all face the center. This way there is no group that is in a position of power. At the same time there are members of the Society, both men and women, who were recognized as gifted speakers and sat on their own bench. When the Arch Street Friends Meeting House was built the Black members were also designated their own bench. Once everyone arrived the participants would sit in silence until someone felt moved to speak.

Philadelphia’s connection with Quakers goes back to the beginning. William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was a Quaker. He made sure he bought the land from the natives even though the land was already given to him by the King of England. He also made sure that the natives could still use the same paths and meeting places that they had previously used, even if someone had a house on that property. The Quakers went on the create many organizations that aided all types of people. The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery was started by Quakers, and in the 1830s, they created the Institute for Colored Youth.

The Quakers also founded many schools, including Haverford and Swarthmore. On June 18, 1830 there was a meeting to discuss the creation of a college for orthodox boys. This school turned into Haverford College, which was opened in 1833. The Hicksites, a fraction that separated in 1827 due to Protestant evangelical influence, responded by building Swarthmore College. The Quakers went on to create more schools for boys and girls in and around Philadelphia.

It is really cool to know a little bit more about the history of the Quakers and the school I go to. Overall, I have really enjoyed learning about Philadelphia’s past this summer at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Claire Michel ’18 

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why education is important: sentimentalism and other shenanigans

Do you know that feeling when you’re running around for a whole day, and when you finally sit down on your couch at home, you realize that you’ve actually been running around for about two months straight?

Yes, I’m happy to say that was me this summer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I’m also happy to say that this pace didn’t cause my time at SAAM to skim by in a superficial way, but very much the opposite. My time was so chock full of different experiences that it will take me a while to unwind them all out. I’m going to work on just one knot right now–a way to articulate why education is important.

Education has always been a presence in my life. Besides the few years when I didn’t know what I was doing (specifically ages 0-3), I’ve never not been a student. But since working with the Education Department at SAAM on several projects, the main one being a professional development program for teachers called Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities Through Art, I have really tried to put words to how education has played a significant role in my own life and the impact it can have on others. So here it goes:

Education is important because it provides the tools people need to become their own educators. It creates citizens of the world who are curious and who care about the world and its people. It empowers people to know and believe that their voice is valid, but that silence is important sometimes too. It challenges people to challenge themselves–to stretch who they are, what they know, what they feel, and what they believe–in order to grow in the directions they want to go.

I’ll probably think of more reasons and more edits as soon as I post this, but for now I think that’s all I really want to say.

Courtney Carter ’17

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Mass Media and the Rhetoric of Technological Progress

Not that long ago Bill Gates said that “the internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”  Although the internet has significantly impacted human communication, it is hardly the first form of mass media.  More than 150 years earlier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. mimicked the tone of Gates’s remark when he called the stereograph “the card of introduction to make all mankind acquaintances” (744).  Working with the Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection at the Library Company this summer has made me think about the multiple moments throughout modern history in which new technologies have made communication more accessible to the general public.  More significantly, this experience has made me ask the question: what rhetorical strategies do societies use to emphasize the beneficial aspects of media and technological revolutions?

Developed by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838, the stereograph was the great-grandfather of today’s 3D media.  A stereograph uses two nearly identical photographs which produce the illusion of depth when viewed through a stereoviewer.  In the subsequent decades, other inventors improved upon Wheatstone’s design resulting in the commercialization of stereo photography.

A hand-held stereograph viewer, after the design popularized by Oliver Wendell Holmes, with a stereograph card inserted. Creator: Davepape, 2006.

A hand-held stereograph viewer, after the design popularized by Oliver Wendell Holmes, with a stereograph card inserted. Creator: Davepape, 2006.

Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the stereograph quickly became a form of easily accessible media in the United States.  While the daguerreotype, an early one-of-a-kind photographic process, used expensive silver plates, many early creators of stereograph views took advantage of  paper processes like the albumen print, which allowed for multiple copies of an image.  As a result, stereograph views had relatively low prices that increased both their production quantity and the size of their audience. Additionally, the mass-produced photographs facilitated a shift in subject matter.  While many daguerreotypes were portraits of the wealthy and their families, many stereo photographers captured the images of landscapes and cityscapes to sell to the general public.  The stereograph was one of the first technologies that allowed Americans to affordably glimpse the world around them from their home.

Although changes in production helped the stereograph become a new mass media, it rested upon journalists, writers, and intellectuals to make it a symbol of positive societal advancement.  As Edward W. Earle argues, in 19th-century America the stereograph gained ideological prominence through its association with the already celebrated ideal of mass democracy.  Earle writes that “anything which allowed for the participation of more than one class came to be labeled democratic…A realistic social ramification of democratic tendencies was greater accessibility to information in the form of books, magazines, newspapers, and pictures” (9).  For writers like Holmes, the varied views of stereographs offered a new and affordable form of visual education.  With stereographs, more Americans could learn about the world through images and then make informed decisions that contributed to running the republic.

Although changes in production helped the stereograph become a new mass media, it rested upon journalists, writers, and intellectuals to make it a symbol of positive societal advancement.  As Edward W. Earle argues, in 19th-century America the stereograph gained ideological prominence through its association with the already celebrated ideal of mass democracy.  Earle writes that “anything which allowed for the participation of more than one class came to be labeled democratic…A realistic social ramification of democratic tendencies was greater accessibility to information in the form of books, magazines, newspapers, and pictures” (9).  For writers like Holmes, the varied views of stereographs offered a new and affordable form of visual education.  With stereographs, more Americans could learn about the world through images and then make informed decisions that contributed to running the republic.

A stereograph card showing an affluent middle-class woman using a stereograph viewer in her parlor. Title: “The Stereograph as an Educator.” Creator: Underwood & Underwood, circa 1901.

In addition to signifying  mass democracy, the stereograph also became a symbol of America’s rising middle-class and consumer culture.  In the mid to late 19th-century, increased industrial output made the purchase of luxury items possible for those who were not part of the wealthy elite. Americans associated the ability to purchase consumer products with a new type of middle-class fashion and culture, or a “vernacular gentry” (Bushman xiii).  As Laura Schiavo maintains in her examination of stereographs and American social history, “the stereoscope belonged to an age in which the consumption of goods signified one’s taste,” and “consuming culture was represented as the road to social harmony” (235). Promoters of the stereograph portrayed the technology as a benign result of industrialization and mass consumption; an affordable form of cultural sophistication for many Americans.  As more families purchased the new form of mass media, many believed that their ability to do so signaled a higher standard of living for the American middle class.


One of the many stereographs produced of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 showing the grounds in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. Massive temporary buildings were constructed for the exhibition, including the Main Exhibition Building, Machinery Hall, Horticultural Hall, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot. The exhibition celebrated ideals of democratic equality, consumer culture, and technological progress. Title: Bird’s Eye View of Grounds from Reservoir. Creator: Centennial Photographic Co., circa 1876.

The Library Company’s Holstein Collection is filled with stereographs from the  Centennial Exhibition of 1876.  A 100th birthday party for the United States, the exhibition served as both a celebration of patriotism and showcase of new consumer products. Like the stereograph, the Centennial Exhibition was portrayed by its chroniclers as a symbol of the increased democratic equality and consumer power that came with technological progress. Today, we should continue to recognize the ways in which we idealize technological advancements and new forms of mass media.  Technological development alone did not give rise to the claim that the internet places us at the dawn of a global society or that social media gives new power to public opinion.  These claims reflect our crafting of the story of technological development in terms of ideals we associate with benefit and prosperity.

As my internship at the Library Company wraps up, I would like to thank the staff of the Library for being friendly and welcoming, especially those I worked closely with: Erika Piola, Sarah Weatherwax, and Nicole Joniec in the Print Department and Connie King in the Reading Room.  I would also like to thank the Hurford Center for funding my internship and  Emily Cronin for her support.


Bushman, Richard. The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

Earle, Edward W. “The Stereograph in American: Pictorial Antecedents and Cultural Perspectives.” In Points of View: The Stereograph in America—A Cultural History. Rochester, N. Y.: Visual Studies Workshop, 1979.

Gates, Bill and Collins Hemmingway, Business @ the Speed of Thought. New York: Grand Central         Publishing, 1999.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell.  “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph.” In The Atlantic Monthly (June 1859).

Schiavo, Laura. “‘A Collection of Endless Extent and Beauty’: Stereographs, Vision, Taste and the American Middle Class, 1850-1880.” Diss. George Washington University, 2003.

David Zabliski, Haverford College ‘17

LCP intern, Summer 2015

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