RevolutionaryPHL: An Inside look at the Stakeholder Team

Sabrina Bocanegra holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Temple University and her M.S.L.I.S. from Drexel University. Sabrina got her start...

Welcome to the first monthly update on the Library & Museum of the American Philosophical Society’s new IMLS grant, Revolutionary City: A Portal to the Nation’s Founding. Revolutionary City is a collaborative effort of three Philadelphia institutions—the American Philosophical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Library Company of Philadelphia—to create a shared online portal of digitized material related to the American Revolution. In early November 2020, I began as the Project Data Manager for the grant, having recently completed work on two Philadelphia-based digitization projects: In Her Own Right and For the Health of the New Nation. Soon after I began my work at APS, we convened our first meeting of the project’s 16 stakeholders, about whom you will learn much more in this post.

Now you might be thinking, isn't there enough out there about the Revolution? The stories of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Rush and other revolutionaries have been told, but their papers are often scattered across multiple institutions making it difficult to fully understand their experiences. The Revolutionary City project will begin to reunite digital scans of the original manuscripts from those collections in one place. Furthermore, Revolutionary City will also focus on primary sources about, and the stories of, less well-known individuals in Philadelphia who participated in the Revolution alongside the revolutionaries we know well. Revolutionary City not only aspires to break down institutional barriers and create better access to these rich collections, but also aims to create a space that allows users to uncover the diverse experiences of the Revolutionary period. More about the goals of the project can be found here.

Hopkins journal
Page from the journal of Thomas Hopkins, a Quaker who writes of his involvement with prisoners during the British occupation of Philadelphia. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Am.082.]

Over the next year you can follow the Revolutionary City blog here and on APS social media (#RevolutionaryPHL). I will provide monthly updates on the project’s process, including challenges and leading questions wrestled with at each phase, discoveries made in the collections, and spotlighting project stakeholders and collaborators as they reflect on their involvement in the project.

This month, I would like to introduce you to our Revolutionary City Stakeholder Team. Right from the start, Revolutionary City will engage a team of 16 educators, public history professionals, scholars, and digital humanists about the needs and opportunities involved in making historic materials related to the nation’s founding available to the broader public. Throughout the pilot phase, this team will meet bimonthly to share their valuable expertise to assist the Project Team in designing a portal to reflect a more complete picture of the Revolution. 

In our first meeting, stakeholders were asked to answer two questions:

  1. What are the narratives of Philadelphia during the American Revolution that you teach, interpret, or research?
  2. What are some narratives about Philadelphia during the American Revolution that you would like to teach, interpret or research? What resources would you like to find?

The discussions that followed exceeded our expectations and served as the groundwork for our next task: identifying and nominating collections that highlight the missing or overlooked narratives of the Revolution in Philadelphia. 

Narratives already taught, researched, and easily findable today were what you would expect: stories of the heroes of the Revolution, white male elite, and Philadelphia-centered events such as the Continental Congresses and creation of the Declaration of Independence. While narratives of lesser-known individuals are making their way into the public sphere, the stakeholders identified many narratives that are still being overlooked. The following are just a few of those narratives:

  • Everyday citizens
  • Philadelphia’s blended population
  • Indigenous peoples
  • African American communities
  • Women and youth
  • Loyalists, Exiles, and Neutrals
  • Religious life

What are the narratives of Philadelphia during the American Revolution that you’d like to teach, interpret, research, or just read about? Please submit suggestions to our Google Form (LINK) which will be open for the duration of the pilot grant! Feel free to ask questions, submit feedback, or just say hello!

Revolutionary City Stakeholders: (in alphabetical order)

Dianne Ashton…
is Professor of Religion Studies at Rowan University and the author and/or editor of five volumes and more than thirty-five scholarly articles exploring women and Judaism in America and in the modern world. Dr. Ashton is the former editor of the journal, American Jewish History, and serves on the Academic Advisory Council of the American Jewish Historical Society. Her current project analyzes the Civil War diary of Richmond, Virginian, Emma Mordecai. Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Jewish Archives, and the Southern Jewish Historical Society, among other institutions. 
Dr. Ashton has used the extensive collections housed at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and is eager to make those treasures available to a wide audience. 

Benjamin Bankhurst…
is Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University, a public liberal arts college in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. His research focuses on migration to the Appalachian frontier in the colonial and revolutionary periods, the Irish Atlantic World, and Loyalism in the Greater Shenandoah Valley. Before Joining the History Department at Shepherd, Dr. Bankhurst held teaching and research appointments at the Institute of Historical Research and Queen Mary, University of London. His articles have appeared in numerous journals including the Pennsylvania Magazine for History and Biography, The Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, and Eire/Ireland. The American Council for Irish Studies awarded his first book Ulster Presbyterians and the Scots Irish Diaspora, 1750-1763 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) the Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book.
Dr. Bankhurst is the Co-Director of the Maryland Loyalism Project (, a public archive and database documenting the experiences of Chesapeake Loyalists in the Era of the American Revolution.

Robert Branch...
is a native Philadelphian, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from Swarthmore College. He worked as an engineer for many years, and was recognized as an “Innovator” by the Electric Power Research Institute. He later went to South Africa for about 13 years and became the first American to become Volunteer of the Year there. When he returned to America he started working as storyteller/writer, first person interpreter, and tour guide for Historic Philadelphia Inc. (HPI).
Branch portrayed Octavius Catto during Mayor Nutter’s press conference to announce the city’s contribution toward a project to erect a memorial at City Hall in Catto’s honor. On July 4th, 2019 he interpreted Bishop Richard Allen for the Sons of the American Revolution at Independence Hall. In 2020, he wrote and directed a performance of a story, “Remember My Name,” at Stenton House. This story highlighted the life of Dinah, an enslaved woman who successfully demanded freedom, and prevented the House from being burnt down by British troops.  Branch is also currently a member of HPI's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.          

Kevin Casey…
is in his 22nd year as a teacher of U.S. History at Pitman High School. Casey was awarded a James Madison Fellowship and spent time as a fellow at Washington Library in Mount Vernon where his research focused on the Presidential mansion in Philadelphia. In addition to his teaching career, Casey is also a public address announcer for various collegiate and professional teams in the Delaware Valley, including the Philadelphia Union. 

Celia Caust-Ellenbogen…
is an Archivist at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College and Vice Chair of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). 

Patricia L. Garza…
is an eighth grade Social Studies teacher from South Texas, an area commonly known as the Rio Grande Valley. She teaches in a small rural district on a campus of about 250 students. Garza is the only eighth grade Social Studies teacher on campus and is also the University Interscholastic League coordinator. She has attended many different teacher institutes in the last seven years, virtually or in-person. The most recent in-person institutes were at Mount Vernon and the Museum of American Revolution in Philadelphia. Garza loves to learn, travel, explore, and introduce history to her students in fun and new ways. 

Marian Cronin-Connolly…
is an educator who specializes in inquiry-based learning and curriculum design. She is the recipient of the 2019 Philly National History Day Teacher of the Year award. Cronin-Connolly has taught high school and middle school students and currently teaches middle school history at St. Peter’s School, a non-sectarian independent school in Philadelphia. 

Nicole A. Jacoberger…
is Assistant Professor of History at Camden County College. Dr. Jacoberger earned her Doctorate in Modern World history from St. John’s University, specializing in Irish indentured labor and Transatlantic migrations. She has taught in higher education for ten years at universities across the globe, lecturing as a visiting professor at the University of St. Martin in the Caribbean while researching for her doctoral thesis. She received SUNY grants in 2015 and 2016, joining forces with professors in Turkey and Mexico to introduce collaborative online international learning into the classroom. Additionally, Dr. Jacoberger leads study abroad programs in Europe and lectures for the NJ-STEP program, helping inmates earn their AA degrees while incarcerated.
She is excited about the opportunity that this project presents for researchers, students, and educators to learn a more inclusive story of revolutionary Philadelphians. Many revere the story of triumphant battles, great generals, and founding fathers. Yet, they do not consider the unknown individuals. Those who kept the city, and revolution, running from behind the scenes. This is a chance to recognize their contribution and hear their stories. 

Emma Jones Lapsansky…
is Emeritus Professor of History and Curator of the Quaker Collection at Haverford College, near Philadelphia, PA, where she continues to teach and to consult with scholars about Haverford’s Quaker Collections. Having received her B.A. and Ph.D. in History and American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania, her research interests and publications include Quaker history, African-American history, Pennsylvania history, the American West, and American social and material-culture history.
Some recent publications include: Quaker Aesthetics (Univ of Pa Press, 2003, with Anne Verplanck); Back to Africa: Benjamin Coates and the American Colonization Movement with Margaret Hope Bacon (2007), and contributed essays to Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World (2006); Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, edited by Randall Miller, William Pencak, et al. (2003; 2021). She has also published an African-American history textbook, Struggle for Freedom (1996; 2016), with Gary Nash and Clayborne Carson.
She frequently lectures to general audiences, and consults to museums and curriculum developers on enlivening public history and classroom history presentations, as well as to authors seeking editorial and/or research advice.

Brendan J. McConville... 
is Professor of History at Boston University and Co-Director of the David Center for the Study of the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society. He holds his Ph.D from Brown University and is the author of several books on eighteenth-century America.   

Mary Beth Norton…
is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History Emerita at Cornell University; she is also Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow (recognizing distinguished undergraduate teaching). In 2005-6, she was Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at the University of Cambridge. She has written The British-Americans (1972), which as a dissertation won the Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians; Liberty’s Daughters (1980, 1996), co-winner of the Berkshire Conference Prize for the best book by a woman historian; Founding Mothers & Fathers (1996), a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in history; In the Devil’s Snare (2002), winner of the Ambassador Book Award from the English-Speaking Union; and Separated by Their Sex (2011). Her latest book, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution, was published by Knopf in 2020. She was an author, with six others, of A People and A Nation, which appeared in its 11th edition in 2018, one of the leading U.S. history textbooks since its initial publication in 1982. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She served as president of the 12,000-member American Historical Association in 2018.

Wendy Wong Schirmer…
received her Ph.D. in diplomatic and early American history at Temple University where her work examined diplomatic crises in the early Republic at the intersection of the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. She has taught Intellectual Heritage (Temple's Humanities and Great Books program) and U.S. history at Temple and at Truman State University.

Shaquita A. Smith…
has served 20 years in education. She currently serves as a Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) and has served in this position since 2014. As a curriculum specialist with SDP, Smith has enjoyed the responsibility of developing curriculum for English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies. In addition to developing curriculum, she has also been dedicated to supporting teachers, teacher leaders, assistant principals, and principals with advancing content knowledge, pedagogical practices and instructional underpinnings through professional development, individual teacher and school support, and partnerships with community and cultural institutions. 
Prior to her position with SDP, Smith was a dedicated classroom instructor and teacher leader in Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Austin Peay State University and her master’s degree with Capella University. She is currently in the running for the Integrity Icon Award Philadelphia. Smith plans to continue to focus on enhancing and transforming the classroom experience for students and teachers through impactful real-world appropriately challenging instruction that focuses on authentic historical narratives, reflective practices, and collaboration.

Jenna Tshudy…
is the Education Manager for Historic Philadelphia, Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers tours and programming in the historic district of Philadelphia. In her role, she is responsible for developing education programs, working with teachers to plan their field trips, and writing curricular materials. In addition to her work at Historic Philadelphia, Tshudy is the President of Philadelphia’s Historic Neighborhood Consortium; serves as Co-Chair of the Young Friends of Wyck Historic House, Garden, and Farm in Germantown; and volunteers as a Judge for National History Day. Over the past few years, she has presented lectures and workshops both locally and at the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) and the Small Museum Association (SMA) annual conferences, focusing on field trips and education programming at museums and historic sites. Tshudy is a graduate of Monmouth University in New Jersey with a B.A. in History and Secondary Education and a M.A. in History.

Serena Zabin…
is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Carleton College. She is the author of Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York and The New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741: Daniel Horsmanden’s Journal of the Proceedings. Her latest book, The Boston Massacre: A Family History, was published in early 2020. Dr. Zabin is also the co-designer of a forthcoming serious video game about the Boston Massacre, Witness to the Revolution.

Curtis Zunigha…
is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma. He is currently the Cultural Director for his tribe and an acknowledged expert on Delaware/Lenape culture, language, and traditional practices. He has over thirty years of experience in tribal government, community development, cultural preservation, and telecommunications. 
Zunigha is also Co-Director of The Lenape Center, a non-profit organization based in New York City which promotes the history and culture of the Lenape people (aka Delaware Indians) through the arts, humanities, and environmental activism.

IMLS logoThis project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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