Philadelphia Metropolis


Our Greatest Asset

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Here is a riddle: What surrounds us, but we cannot see it? (And it's not air.)

I got to thinking about what it is when I posted a piece earlier this week about the revival in Philadelphia's fortunes -- for the first time in 60 years, the city is seeing an increas in population.I mentioned the city's assets -- its meds and eds sector, its mass transit network, etc. -- but gave short shrift to what could be our greatest asset: our history.

Philadelphia is ancient by American standards. Laid out in 1682 , it is now in its fifth century of existence. It has public and private buildings extant from each era. It is the place where so many American firsts happened, the list used to fill up several small-type pages in the Bulletin Almanac. Philadelphia oozes history, yet collectively we pay little attention to it.

It surrounds us but we cannot see it.

Which sets me up for a plug for the new project led by Sam Katz (yes, Sam Katz the politician) to create a new history of Philadelphia.  It is called Philadelphia: The Great Experiment and Ed Colimore did a recent story about the effort that will give you the particulars.

Embeded below is one of the webisodes, about the city's role in American baseball.


Base Ball: The Philadelphia Game from The Great Experiment on Vimeo.

Ths most recent full-blown history of the city was published in 1982, the work of a collection of scholars that is uneven in quality and reads like a textbook. Katz's Great Experiment is designed as a seven-part video series, with a raft of ancilliary "webisodes" that let people dig down into a particular topic.  Katz and his associates have produced a half-hour prototype episode that begins with Abraham Lincoln's death and ends with the Centennial Exposition of 1876. It is a vibrant, smart piece that, as the saying goes, makes history come alive.

The project is by no means a done deal.  It will cost about $5 million to complete and Katz is out knocking on doors, raising money.  Not an easy thing in these hard economic times.

But, I would argue that knowing the history of this city -- for young and old alike -- is vital to understanding its present and its promise for the future. It is a reminder that we are only the latest in a long line of Philadelphia's who, for whatever time God gives us, have our own role to play in making this city work. We owe it not only to ourselves and our to children, but to the generations of Philadelphians who came before us. The Great Experiment is a reminder of who those people were and what they did to make this the special place it is.

Embeded above is one of the webisodes, about the city's role in American baseball.

-- TF

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