This post was edited to reflect the change from Shared Shelf to JSTOR Forum.

We invited Lee T. Pearcy of Bryn Mawr College’s Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies, to discuss the Classicizing Philadelphia project.


One way to think about America’s relationship with ancient Greece and Rome is to imagine a dialogue. Listen carefully as you wander around Philadelphia. You may be able to hear the conversation. Girard College emulates the Parthenon. The Art Museum, with its Corinthian porticoes and classical pediments, talks to Rome, and the Doric Waterworks below it talks to Greece. At the Arch Street Theater in 1858, Ernst Legouvé’s Medea talked to Euripides, and in the 2006 Mummers’ Parade, the Aqua String Band consulted Rome before it went “Roman Up Broad.” For three hundred years, Philadelphia has generated part of its own special look and feel, its culture, through a conversation with ancient Greece and Rome.

At Bryn Mawr College, the Classicizing Philadelphia project is using JSTOR Forum’s plugin in Omeka to document and study Philadelphia’s use of classical culture and to continue the conversation. JSTOR Forum lets me, as project director, and students from Bryn Mawr’s programs in Classics and Growth and Structure of Cities upload, catalog, and manage data from Bryn Mawr’s image collection and other Philadelphia collections. The data are then made available to the public through an Omeka-based site.

On the Classicizing Philadelphia site users will be able to find stories about uses of Greece and Rome in architecture and city planning, performing arts, fine arts, and education. They will also be able to discover information about the neighborhoods that are a vital part of Philadelphia’s urban life. With the support of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, Classicizing Philadelphia is now working on an interactive tour of classical Philadelphia for mobile devices. The mobile device tour will also use data managed with JSTOR Forum.

By using low-cost, widely available, or open-source technology, Classicizing Philadelphia hopes to develop a model for digital public history projects in urban classical reception. For further information about the planning of the project, see the Classicizing Philadelphia blog.