The Philly History Truck,a traveling exhibition that explores the oral history of Philadelphia communities, is opening up this weekend right at the border of Temple University and North Philly.
“The show is about the relationship between Temple and the community — and it’s literally right betweena community-owned shop and a Temple dorm,” said Erin Bernard, 29, founder of the History Truck and a recent graduate of Temple’s graduate program in history, of the storefront they’re opening upat Broad and Susquehanna.
The Truck that used to house the project is currently at a mechanic’s. But the exhibition will sharestories of the neighborhood’s changes. Locals are being asked to map out where they first slept, to track how residential patterns have changed.
There will also be hair ‘do’s’ courtesy of Don Williams, a local barber at 15th and Susquehannawho did the hair of B.B. King and Stevie Wonder in his prime.
Susquehanna Avenue has seen most commercial activity drop off in years past. But Williams doesn’t blame that on Temple – he told Bernard that a city expansion of a schoolyard that knocked out a block of homes and businesses was what really took the block down.
The History Truck exhibition explores how whileTemplewas founded in the 19thcentury with a goal ofeducating the public, today the expanded school is seen by some locals on the borders as expanding into their neighborhoods.
Stories like howin the ’50s, Temple bought and developed a cemetery at 15th and Montgomery– sending the gravestones to be used as foundations for the Betsy Ross Bridge — don’t help matters.
But there was also a series of talks between the school and neighbors that led to a Community Temple Agreementin 1970. Bernard will lead a walking tour of which blocks were promised improvements back then on Saturday.
“The hope is that people continue to share stories and talk about everything that’s going on here,” Bernard said. “And hopefully they’ll meet someone they never met before.”
The Philly History Truck will open from5 to 8 p.m. Friday, and be open from 12 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The exhibition closes on June 27.