This seminar will focus on the history of Philadelphia’s celebratory public landscape and its lingering impact on adjacent communities. Selected to host the 1876 Centennial Exhibition (in West Fairmount Park), Philadelphia was the first American city to dedicate a considerable amount of public parkland to an exhibition organized to celebrate American independence as well as to affirm private entrepreneurship and America’s growing importance in global capitalist markets. What was the long term impact of the Centennial on Philadelphia’s growth and development? This question is especially pertinent because while much of the landscape of the Centennial survives, as well as some exhibition buildings, it is in the neighborhoods adjacent to the exhibition site that we see the impact of the fair and its legacy on the city’s urban realities. Why did subsequent Philadelphia planners return repeatedly to West Fairmount Park as a space that was available and disposable – proposed for the 1926 Sesquicentennial, the United Nations and the Bicentennial in 1976? How did parkside neighborhoods change over the decades, and did development plans take into account these changing conditions? Students will conduct archival, documentary, site-based, and other kinds of research to analyze the origins, course, and consequences of these celebratory sites, in particular their impact on the development of adjacent residential neighborhoods as well as on the management and interpretation of public landscapes and institutions. In addition to discussing readings in history, art history, cultural landscapes, historic preservation, sociology, and material culture, students will design and conduct original research projects that may involve: The exploration of a particular landscape feature, building, or object. Archival research involving the planning, implementation and impact of Philadelphia’s world’s fairs Archival research about architecture, urban planning and real estate development, civic culture or historical commemoration.
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