For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Voyages by Road and Sea: Exhibition on Walt Whitman and Herman Melville Opens at the Free Library

PHILADELPHIA, November 13, 2019—The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to present the exhibition Voyages by Road and Sea, an exploration of the legacies of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville through contemporary voices and art, in the Parkway Central Library’s West Gallery.

The exhibition—which marks the bicentennial years of both authors—examines Whitman’s and Melville’s personal and literary journeys through the lens of working Philadelphia artists, showcasing archival images and documents alongside artwork submitted in response to an open call issued by the Free Library in the fall of 2018. Including comics, sculpture, painting, and poetry, among other mediums, the art enters into dialogue with the legacies of Whitman and Melville on critical present-day issues like immigration and conservation.

Additionally, the exhibition presents the voices of influential thinkers of the past century who have engaged with Whitman and Melville through commentary and writing, such as Toni Morrison, C.L.R. James, Joseph Bruchac, June Jordan, and Langston Hughes.

Voyages by Road and Sea weaves the historical narratives of Melville and Whitman together with numerous and varied perspectives on their work,” says Andrew Nurkin, the Free Library’s Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement. “These diverse interpretations help us consider Melville and Whitman with an empathetic yet progressive eye: What can they teach us? Where do their voices speak too softly, with bias, or not at all? Asking such questions opens up rich conversations and new understandings of these literary figures and of our own cultural history.”

Curated by Edward Whitley, Ph.D., Professor of English at Lehigh University, and Alexander Ames, Ph.D., Collections Engagement Manager at The Rosenbach and the Free Library of Philadelphia, the exhibition draws on the holdings of the Free Library’s special collections, The Rosenbach, the Independence Seaport Museum, the Mystic Seaport Museum, the Library of Congress, and other institutions. The featured contemporary artists are Norma E. Cantú, Abigail Donovan, Richard Gabriele, Linda Dubin Garfield, Anna McGlynn, Kelly McQuain, and Marta Sánchez. Related programming, including curator walk-throughs, will be presented throughout the exhibition’s duration; additional Melville programming will be on offer in partnership with The Rosenbach, whose current exhibition American Voyager: Herman Melville at 200 provides an in-depth dive into Melville’s life, work, and continuing impact. 

Voyages by Road and Sea will be on display in the West Gallery, First Floor, Parkway Central Library, now through summer 2020.

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About the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 28,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 10 million visits annually—5 million in-person, 5 million online—the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850