Come the new year, as readers of our first post at @phillyhistory know, this account will be home to the First Steem-Powered University Course: “Nonprofit Management for Historians” (History 5151) starting mid January at Temple University in Philadelphia (US).
Philadelphia is rich in history collections, archives and libraries. It’s a place with a deeply documented past that is evident at every turn. Per capita, this city may have more historical sites, more landmarks, markers, institutions and historic homes than just about anywhere else in the US. The very streets are a grid conceived in the 1680s. They’ve been extended to the north, south and west - far beyond the original two-square-mile “metropolis” known as Center City. Philadelphia’s DNA lives on in these streets, and in the city’s spirit of place. It’s pervasive.
The Fabric of Freedom & Independence
No other American city can quite claim such a sense of place and past. Present but fleeting; powerful but fragile. Woven into the fabric from the start. A city designed with a logical, idealistic footprint that is the epitome of user friendly. A place where freedom of conscience was not just an ideal, but an essential founding principle. Philadelphia's Quaker founder, William Penn, assured investors and potential settlers that “in no wayes” would anyone “be molested or prejudiced for their Religious Perswasion or Practice in matters of Faith and Worship…”.
Not long after being granted the vast tract of land that became Pennsylvania, Penn wrote of his purpose and motives: “I eyed the Lord in obtaining it” and “owe it to his hand and power…to keep it.” Penn intended to “serve his truth and people" setting "an example...to the nations." He believed "there may be room there [in America] though not here [in Europe] for such an holy experiment."
Penn’s name for the place: Philadelphia, “City of Brotherly Love.”
The Monument to William Penn
Centuries later, the visiting essayist G.K. Chesterton contemplated “that vast gray labyrinth” of Philadelphia, "with great Penn upon his pinnacle like the graven figure of a god who had fashioned a new world.” Chesterton imagined that Philadelphians could “feel the presence of Penn and Franklin” just as his English brethren could “see the ghosts of Alfred or Becket.”
Philadelphians didn’t need their imaginations to feel the past. They could literally see Penn’s image from every quarter of the gridded city. In the 1890s, a giant bronze statue of the founder had been installed 500 feet above the city’s Center Square, on top of the tower of City Hall tower. For many decades, nothing came close to Penn’s visibility and his height.
Nothing ever came close to his legacy of fairness.
Before he arrived in 1681, Penn wrote a letter to the Natives, explaining that he was different from the Europeans they might have previously encountered.
“I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice that hath been too much exercised toward you by the people of these parts of the world...which I hear hath been matter of trouble to you, and caused great grudgings and animosities, sometimes to the shedding of blood,” wrote Penn. “But I am not such a man, as is well known in my own country; I have great love and regard towards you, and I desire to win and gain your love and friendship, by a kind, just, and peaceable life, and the people I send are of the same mind…”
Penn guaranteed justice: “If in anything any shall offend you or your people, you shall have a full and speedy satisfaction for the same, by an equally number of just men on both sides…”
LOVE for the Past, Present, Future
No accident that Robert Indiana’s Pop Art LOVE statue, which wasn’t created in Philadelphia or made for Philadelphia. But it found a natural home in the center of Philadelphia. Versions of Indiana’s LOVE have found their way into dozens of cities around the world since the 1960s, but in the City of Brotherly Love it is particularly at home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway aligned with the giant bronze Penn on City Hall.
Not only is Philadelphia steeped in the past, it has literally been marinating in the past from the beginning. And in spite of changes brought on by the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, the city has no intention of denying the power and value of it’s past now.
In other words, Philadelphia is a great city, maybe the greatest city, to convene a course about the role of history institutions and how to manage them. How to make them meaningful for the future.
And so, in partnership with @sndbox, this Steemit account will be a timely forum to explore history, empower education and endow meaning. As a platform for graduate students and Steemit readers, Temple University’s “Nonprofit Management for Historians” will be a variation on the founding theme: a crypto-experiment. Stay tuned for more pre-semester posts here from Professor Kenneth Finkel, @kenfinkel in Temple University’s College of Liberal Arts.