Historic Preservation

  • A Carving of a Ship on the Exterior logs of Captain Timothy Hill House, VA

  • Michael Emmons a guest lecturer at the Weitzman School of Design for the Fall semester.

Early American Graffiti: Finding, Interpreting, and Preserving an Accidental Archive

Friday, November 20, 2020 12:00pm
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Understudied as primary resources, historical graffiti are concise, highly charged, expressive documents that are sometimes the only written record of elusive past actors. This presentation, after some opening remarks about the value of documenting and studying historical graffiti, will dive deeply into the specific subject of ship graffiti -- a major theme in Michael Emmons' dissertation. In communities near the Atlantic Ocean and its navigable tributaries, sailing vessels were familiar and revered icons. This reverence for ships was expressed, among other ways, through the extensive carving of ship graffiti on early American buildings and objects. This talk, with ship-themed graffiti at its focal point, builds on social and cultural histories of the Atlantic world to explore the nexus of emotions connecting coastal people in real, local, confined places to imagined, wider, maritime worlds. It does so by examining graffiti of sailing vessels discovered in spaces of confinement—ranging from an old jail building on Cape Cod, to the attic quarters of an indentured servant on Long Island, to the rigid benches of an austere Quaker meetinghouse in Pennsylvania. Registration is required. 

Michael Emmons, a guest lecturer at the Weitzman School of Design for the Fall semester. Emmons is also the Assistant Director and Senior Architectural Historian at the Center for Historic Architecture & Design (CHAD) at the University of Delaware, a research unit that engages in historic preservation projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.

If you require any accessibility accommodation, such as live captioning, audio description, or a sign language interpreter, please email news@design.upenn.edu to let us know what you need. Please note, we require at least 48 hours’ notice. If you register within 48 hours of this event, we won’t be able to secure the appropriate accommodations.​