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Free Library of Philadelphia Awarded Grant for Chronicling Resistance Project
PHILADELPHIA, October 2, 2020— The Free Library of Philadelphia is pleased to announce that it was awarded a $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an ambitious project in partnership with the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSL). The project, Chronicling Resistance, will work with activists, librarians, and archivists to preserve and illuminate stories from current and historical movements resisting oppression and marginalization, and the Free Library will support Chronicling Resistance thanks to the generous grant awarded to the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation.
Chronicling Resistance will amplify stories of social, political, religious, scientific, and artistic resistance held in Philadelphia archives and help activists preserve their records of today’s acts of resistance to the status quo. Philadelphia activists working from within historically marginalized communities will collaborate with research librarians, as well as Project Director Mariam Williams and Consulting Curator Yolanda Wisher, to interpret existing archival documents related to their fields.
Chronicling Resistance began in 2017 as a program of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries with support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Mariam Williams, who has been the project director for Chronicling Resistance since its inception, will continue to lead the project as a member of the Free Library’s Division of Cultural and Civic Engagement.
“The past two years afforded the project team time to build foundational relationships with local activists and to define the project’s vision,” Williams said. “The Mellon Foundation’s investment expands the project in the ways we’ve been most excited about from the beginning, including public exhibitions as catalysts for civic engagement. I’m thrilled to oversee a project that centers people who too often have been erased or minimized in the historical record, honors them as keepers of history, and works to preserve for future generations the stories of them as actors in our city's and nation's push towards freedom.”
Over the next two and half years, the project will provide support for ten Activist-Curator Fellows, who will investigate archival collections in Philadelphia to uncover stories of resistance, tell those stories through a series of programs and exhibitions, and preserve the record of current activism authored and owned by communities.
The project will culminate with an exhibition and community programs in ten neighborhood libraries, at Parkway Central Library, and online in 2022. Poet, singer, educator, and curator Yolanda Wisher will serve as Consulting Curator for the exhibition, working closely with Activist-Curator Fellows to develop installations, programs, and digital experiences.
"For me, Chronicling Resistance is a thrilling opportunity to support visionary cultural workers in uplifting the stories of resistance that we know and have yet to know,” Wisher said.
“This project centers Philadelphia’s history as a site for resistance—both individual acts and large-scale movements—and affirms the authority of activists in shaping and sharing those stories. Chronicling Resistance will also make historical archives more accessible by bringing special collections and programs into neighborhood libraries,” said Andrew Nurkin, Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement for the Free Library and Principal Investigator for the Mellon Foundation grant.
Will Noel, Chair of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, stated, “We are delighted to be able to partner in this further iteration of Chronicling Resistance. The libraries within PACSCL are ripe with voices yet to be heard and we look forward to assisting the Activist-Curator Fellows as they bring these voices to light.”
The Free Library will select ten Activist-Curator Fellows to join the project. Fellows will receive a stipend of $10,000 and commit to 400 hours of archival research, cultural organizing, and community archiving over eighteen months, with support from PACSCL archivists and the project team.
Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850