History in Action

Anne Baker
The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent (PHM) has begun a new transition with their renovations and new displays. The building is clean and fresh with interesting objects in display. Exhibits include a timeline of Philadelphia’s history, a painting gallery full of portraits of Philadelphians or painted by Philadelphians. Objects include George Washington’s desk, boxing gloves, a collection of eyeglasses, and many more objects. Another interesting feature is a large map of the City that takes up the entire room, and visitors are encouraged to “walk” around Philadelphia.
Photo by Anne Baker
I am not from Philadelphia and did not have the privilege to experience the Museum before the renovations, but after my visit I was able to assess the “New” Museum, as based on Rohit Bhargava’s Likeonomics. I am only going to touch one aspect of Bhargava’s acronym of TRUST: Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, and Timing; I will focus on Relevance and explain how the Museum can achieve a likeable status within the community.
When thinking of the term “relevance” and applying it to the PHM, the hope is that the museum builds a relationship with the community that becomes more relevant; In other words, important, impactful, and purposeful. Because PHM is dedicated to supporting and exploring Philadelphia’s history there is a sense of purpose for the public and community, but it is my belief that the museum needs to dig down deep and make a better connection with the community today.
PHM would benefit from forming a relationship with the community and this should be shown by asking the community “What does Philadelphia’s history mean to you?”  But asking this simple question, I think the Museum would be astonished by the answers they receive. The next step would be to turn the small first floor gallery space into a real community room inspired by the stories and answers from the public.
This new exhibit could include actual family histories interpreted through photographs, letters, and memorabilia. This would become their own personal history and then the Museum would become more relevant to the community and people. I like to call this “History in Action,” where the Museum takes an active role in focusing on the publics personal History.
This type of community engagement would reflect the history presented throughout the current exhibits and it would become a continuum of Philadelphia’s history, past, present, and future. 

Sources used:
Bhargava, Rohit. (2012). Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.