Eastwick Oral History Project

Earl Wilson
Mr. Earl Wilson, current president of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition


The Eastwick Oral History Project documents the rich history and complex cultural life of Eastwick — a vibrant community in Southwest Philadelphia. The neighborhood’s history is marked by deep connections to the landscape and waterways, as well as experiences of displacement and environmental injustice.The Eastwick Oral History Project, operated by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, documents the legacies and changes of the neighborhood through interviews with lifelong residents, long-time residents, and others who are engaged in community advocacy around Eastwick’s future.

The project began in a series of conversations with Eastwick community members around their histories of community organizing and environmental engagement. PPEH’s commitment to mutually document, archive, and share these histories was inspired by the efforts of Eastwick neighbors. The initial conversations between PPEH and Eastwick community members were led by a group of PPEH fellows including Jess Holler, Patricia Kim, and Paul Mitchell, who also worked with Jeff Nagle. These conversations were documented in “Hearing Rivers,” part of the Date/um installation exhibited twice at Penn and once at WHYY in 2016-2017, curated by Patricia Kim.

Subsequently, members of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, other Eastwick residents, and staff at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum engaged in a series of follow-up conversations and meetings with PPEH to explore how to continue this collaborative work. Beginning in May 2017, Penn student, Mary Cerulli, attended meetings in Eastwick related to a public land planning process. Over the months of July-November 2017, she conducted both informational and oral history interviews with interested participants.

These interviews were products of a mutual exchange: Each conversation was transcribed and shared back with the participant; the transcription was then reviewed with the participant to ensure accuracy; and at that time, the contributor of the oral history specified their chosen level of public access to their materials.

Those participants who opted for full public access are now presented in a new prototype exhibition kiosk, the Oral History Jukebox, installed at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, and are included on the Schuylkill River and Urban Waters Research Corp online archive (SchuylkillCorps.org).

As the project grows, please drop in to experience, listen, and appreciate the histories shared.

About the The Oral History Jukebox: This kiosk is a prototype engaged humanities project that celebrates the contributions of community participants with a new media installation. Visitors can both read and listen to "talking binders" at the first installation of the jukebox, in the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. Each binder includes audio excerpts played out loud from the kiosk, a portrait taken and shared with the participant, and the full transcript of the interview. The kiosk was designed by Paul Farber and William Hodgson, and built by Pernot Hudson. The design documents, list of materials, and programming code are open and available for public use through PPEHLab.org.


How do I participate in the Eastwick Oral History Project?

Do you have stories that you would like to share about your life in Eastwick? Are you open to talking with a researcher about your memories and experiences of the neighborhood? Interviews take place on a regularly scheduled basis. Each interview is transcribed and shared with participants for accuracy.

Where will my interview go?

You can share your interview with just the researchers or in a more public way. You can contribute to the the exhibition at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, post it on the public SchuylkillCorps.org online archive, and share it in other ways you choose.

How do I get involved?

For more information or to be interviewed for the project, please contact: director@ppehlab.org.


Special thanks to all the contributors to this project: Current Participants (Ms. Margie Cobb, Ms. Nancy Cobb, Mr. John Hemphill III, Mr. Scott Maits, Mr. Leonard Stewart, Mr. Terry Williams, and Mr. Earl Wilson), Mary Cerulli, Hayley Ahouse, Alex Anderson, Mariana Bergerson, Caroline Carney, Joanne Douglas, Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, Eastwick Regional Library, Friends of Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Mindy Fullilove, Lamar Gore, William Hodgson, Jess Holler, Marilyn Howarth, Pernot Hudson, Patricia Kim, Jen McCart, Paul Mitchell, Michael Nairn, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, and the Staff and Community at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum.