First Two Weeks at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

First Two Weeks at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Going into the summer, I was constantly being asked what I intended on doing with my time. I told everyone that I would be interning for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the second largest historical archive in the country to the Library of Congress, but beyond that I wasn’t entirely sure myself.   I knew my job would involve a decent amount of writing and researching, both things I have come to enjoy throughout my time at Haverford as a political science major, but I didn’t know what I would be researching or for which kind of audience. Upon arriving, I soon realized why I was unsure of my job description. HSP doesn’t often assign it’s interns specific tasks with strict deadlines: rather I was given the freedom to tell my supervisor what areas I wanted to be most involved in, and furthermore, which topics I wanted to explore the most. Having worked in an office before, I am well aware of how rare it is that an undergraduate intern  has the agency to pursue subjects that are genuinely of interest, as opposed to running menial errands for everyone else.   So far I have been working on the interactive online map used for the public, wherein there are links containing historical information about hundreds of significant locations in Philadelphia. Thus far I have been researching two main topics–both of which are very relevant to things happening right now. The first is about the Reading Viaduct project–the expansive abandoned railroad that the city is trying to turn into a park, much like the New York City Highline. I am...
Quakers, Haverford, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Quakers, Haverford, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of my favorite parts about writing stories for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website PhilaPlace.org 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: www.philaplace.org/story/1629/). 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...
The Wanamakers and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Wanamakers and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

This summer I am working at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). The Historical Society has been working on a website called PhilaPlace.org for a while now. The website provides an interactive map of Philadelphia with stories about the people, groups, and buildings that have impacted the community. This includes everything from the Free African Society to Reading Terminal Market. The long-term goal is to flush out the map with significant sites so that residents and tourists alike can read about the history of the city. Personally, my favorite part of knowing history is knowing how the past has shaped the present community around me. My work at HSP has helped me understand the history behind the Macy’s building, which I pass everyday on my way to work. The building originally housed the first Wanamaker’s department store. The store started as Oak Hall, a clothing store for men and boys, opened by John Wanamaker and his brother-in-law, Nathan Brown. The store was successful due to its revolutionizing business practices. This included getting rid of haggling over price and letting customers return goods. The store was known for its honesty, mostly because John Wanamaker was well respected in the religious community. Interestingly, there were still discounts for people like ministers, meaning he was not completely honest about there being only one price for all goods. Once the store became more successful it was moved to the location where Macy’s now stands. The store was built to create the ideal shopping experience for women. There was a restaurant and seats so shoppers could take a break. However, what is most notable...
Engaging with History at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Engaging with History at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

After countless summers of babysitting and getting sunburned at the beach, I am finally trying to be a “real person.” This summer, I have a full-time internship at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, funded by the Hurford Center’s Philadelphia Partners program. I am an education intern, which perfectly combines my history major and education minor and fuels my desire to teach history on the high school level.  The Society aims to bring primary sources into the classroom and helps teachers integrate primary sources into the history curriculum by providing programs and resources. As an education intern,  some of my tasks include editing and updating the lesson plans on the website, observing student programs, analyzing student surveys, and creating my own lesson plans using primary sources found at HSP. I have been working on a lesson plan about the Vietnam War. HSP houses the papers of Joseph Sill Clark, a Democratic politician from Philadelphia who served both as mayor of Philadelphia and a US Senator. Part of his vast collection are several boxes of items pertaining to the Vietnam war, including personal notes, correspondence with other senators, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and speeches. While perusing these resources, I found a very interesting article about Haverford. The article states:  “Communist North Vietnam’s official radio reported Monday that a committee of students at a Pennsylvania college was collecting money to help the Vietcong, which it called the South Vietnam National Liberation Front. The Hanoi radio said students at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, had formed a ‘May 2 Committee’ to collect funds for medical supplies for the Vietcong. The committee also was reported planning a demonstration...