Beyond the Liberty Bell: Preparing for an Exhibition on Philadelphia's Many Heritages

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By Aaron Stoyack

On February 16th, the first planning meeting for West Chester University’s (WCU) highly anticipated Beyond the Liberty Bell: Philadelphia’s Global Heritage exhibition took place. This event is sponsored through a collaboration by West Chester University’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology; as well as the Global Philadelphia Association (GPA). GPA helped bring in more than twenty connections from the greater Philadelphia region. With the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention that began on November 16, 1972; the exhibition wishes to highlight the World Heritage City designation that Philadelphia boasts. 

“It is very exciting to be able to showcase the rich fabric of Philadelphia’s global community through this expo celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UN charter,” GPA Executive Director Zabeth Teelucksingh noted. 

The opening day is September 16th with a preview being offered on May 24th, and while the tight timetable may raise a few eyebrows, it is for good reason. This exhibition is put together by students in the capstone course of WCU’s Museum Studies program. Before taking this course, they learn techniques and practices such as acquiring artifacts, taking care of collections, and how to design and install every piece of an exhibit. Since the beginning of the semester, they have been brainstorming ideas and after the meeting, they expressed excitement that these were coming to fruition. 

The “big idea” of an exhibition is essentially a thesis statement, something to focus on and guide the process to communicate a certain idea. 

“Despite the colonial origins of its designation as a World Heritage site, Philadelphia’s heritage is crafted from a continuous story of interactions between diverse communities, which expresses world culture in ways that deserve this recognition,” Museum Director Di Giovine said. 

Much time was spent workshopping this idea, as well as offering ways in which donors could contribute. Attendees expressed a desire to focus on interconnectedness and cross-cultural themes such as food, music, and the arts and how each culture influences one another.

A plethora of individuals and organizations came together to make this vision a reality. Among them were renowned artist Richard Hugh Blackford, as well as representatives from the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Echoes of Africa, Esperanza Academy, Accion Colombia, and the Honorary Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

With such a diverse assortment from all six inhabited continents, this exhibition will be able to illustrate the cosmopolitan culture and global heritage in which Philadelphia takes pride.

Photo Credit: West Chester University via Facebook


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