City Hall, date unknown


Philadelphia is a historical city. The oldest surviving American photograph was taken in Philadelphia, and the city has been scrapbooking itself ever since. Philadelphians may not look back to this material record, but it permeates the city and makes a perfect source for creative work. This website project brings people together in their own literary geography.


In 2006, I did an apprenticeship through the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing with Beth Kephart, who was working on a historical fiction piece at the time. The apprenticeship deepened my interest in Philadelphia as a both a historical and a literary landscape. My research in Philadelphia archives during the spring kept me busy throughout the entire summer while I wrote about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in this city. I want to see how others think about history and how they can use it as an impetus for writing.

Independence Hall, 1900


This year, I am going to be collecting historical artifacts and soliciting responses to these from real Philadelphians, people from all different backgrounds who have a connection to the city. This website is dedicated to making an online "scrapbook" of Philadelphia artifacts paired with solicited stories, poems and prose that invited the people of Philadelphia to imagine the city's past.

As I collect both participants and artifacts, I will give each just one artifact from Philadelphia's past, and see how they imagine its context. The artifacts can be archival photographs or newspaper articles about places and events in the city, and I can help match the artifacts with people I ask to contribute. I will provide ideas and questions to jumpstart the creative process, but the responses should be open-ended and in any genre as long as they deal with the artifact and the history presented within it.

As I receive work I organize it into themes, and post on this site later in the year. Hopefully there will be a printed version of this created that will be donated to the Writers House. The release party for this will be at the House, and contributors will share their work on April 22nd.