Michael J. Price Lab for Digital Humanities

Preserving Society Hill

Preserving Society Hill

Francesca Ammon

Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation

Funding Period: 
May, 2017

Co-Investigators:

Jo Ann N. Buller

Cynthia J. Eiseman, Ph.D.

Karen D. Stevens

Penelope H. Batchelor (1928-2006)

Dorothy Stevens (1936-2017)

Contibutors:

Elizabeth S. Browne

Stanhope S. Browne (1931-2013)

Anne P. Meyers


Preserving Society Hill (http://pennds.org/societyhill/) is a multimedia, map-based website for documenting the urban renewal of Philadelphia’s Society Hill neighborhood during the 1950s-70s. By digitizing, aggregating, and mapping relevant primary sources, the site will help reconstruct the renewal of the neighborhood. Key historical documents to be geotagged (i.e., electronically located by address) on the map include: photographs from before, during, and after urban renewal; oral histories and memoirs of residents, business owners, and other individuals connected with the area; maps and plans; and data by address garnered from planning documents, deeds, city directories, and the census. The website is intended to serve dual purposes: 1) to provide a tool for exploring the site-level history of postwar city planning and historic preservation through one nationally significant community, and 2) to maintain a portal for engagement with the visual and public memory of urban renewal at the local level.

To date, our team has developed basic site infrastructure, including georeferencing a historical map as the organizing layout, outlining parcels, developing pop-ups for each address, and incorporating historical data for each parcel, including: photographs from PhillyHistory.org, urban renewal and architectural records, and oral history transcripts. Over time, we will continue to both refine this data and incorporate new image, audio, and oral history sources for each address. We also aim to eventually produce a mobile-friendly version of the site.

Preserving Society Hill is the result of ongoing collaboration between multiple academic and community-level partners. These include the Price Lab for Digital Humanities, the Digital Scholarship group at Penn Libraries, faculty and students in Penn’s Department of City & Regional Planning and Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, and the past and present residents of Society Hill who originally developed the Project Philadelphia 19106 oral history project.


Francesca Russello Ammon is assistant professor of city and regional planning and historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies the history of the built environment, focusing on the social, material, and cultural life of cities in the twentieth-century United States. She lives in Philadelphia, PA.