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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Date: December 15, 2010
Byline: Roz McPherson

Live Chat - President's House

Roz McPherson will chat about the newly opened historical attraction The President's House in a Hot Button chat on Thursday beginning at 1 p.m.

Live Chat — President's House (12/16/2010)

Thursday December 16, 2010


Live Chat — President's House (12/16/2010)

Thursday December 16, 2010 Welcome to the Hot Button chat on the opening of The President's House. Roz McPherson will begin chatting at 1 pm but you can enter your questions or comments at any time.

Roz McPherson: Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you this afternoon to answer questions on the President's House project. I appreciate your interest.

[Comment From Rob: ] I applaud the thinking behind this, but isn't it a bit of a slippery slope? How much dirt do we need to dig up on the Founding Fathers?

Roz McPherson: Projects of this nature always have risks and you proceed regardless of those risks. It is important to the public.

Roz McPherson: I don't consider a more expansive telling of history to be digging up dirt. And this is one perspective. History cannot be one-sided and for many years it has been.

[Comment From Rob: ] I'm just saying, there could be some pretty interesting exhibits on Thomas Jefferson...

Roz McPherson: There can be numerous exhibits on many historical figures. It just so happens that this site is important for a specific reason and that is the story upon which we focused.

[Comment From sheila: ] can you give us any insight on how the project evolved into this emphasis

Roz McPherson: We took into account the numerous comments and expressed expecctation of the public, historians, and National Park Service officials. We also know that the funding for the project was a result of protests from the AFrican AMerican community to provide some facts that are often not covered.

[Comment From ProgPaulProgPaul: ] Were you instrumental in shaping the project? Trying to figure out what is the focus of the chat...

Roz McPherson: As the project's director, it was my role to manage all aspects of the project and I played a significant role in the development of the interpretation.

Roz McPherson: Each project has its own particular needs and parameters. I do see an increased interest in the history of the African American experience around the US and abroad. There is also an interest in the lives and experiences of a number of cultures.

[Comment From ProgPaul: ] As I recall there was some resistance early on to doing it this way. What was it that turned the tide?

Roz McPherson: Exhibit projects that are based on public input have many twists and turns. There are many factors that determine the final outcome. The acknowledgment that perspective and the voice of the people who were often voiceless was a contributing factor to "turning the tide."

Roz McPherson: The site just opened yesterday. I don't know how it is being received by tourists. That will take some time. NOTE: 1:08 answer was to this question that didn't show up...

[Comment From sheila: ] do you see any other such projects around the US picking up on this approach?

[Comment From Guest: ] Hello Roz and congratulations on the success of this very defining project. i am interested in the role that Avenging the Ancestors Coalition played in this project,since there is there is very little mention of their efforts in the press releases. Thank you And that one was to this:

[Comment From Rob: ] How has the response from tourists been so far?

Roz McPherson: ATAC is mentioned in all press releases developed by this office and the City. ATAC was instrumental in the funding for this project because of their protests. The opinions and requests from ATAC were also instrumental in shaping the perspective of the interpretation, along with input from other organizations as well. Here's today's DN story for those who haven't read it yet... click

[Comment From Rob: ] Just wondered if you had heard or noticed any comments after the opening or whatever.

Roz McPherson: There have been many expressions of joy, gratitude, and support. There have also been those who do not feel that the site accomplishes what they expected. That too is to be expected. I prefer comments of visitors after Grand Opening day . It will take a number of months to get an accurate read on how a variety of visitors interact with the site and respond to its content.

[Comment From sheila: ] i wonder if this will be the beginning of a trend in historical markers

Roz McPherson: I certainly hope so. There is so much more to learn. And all markers will not be the same. Funding and creative design play a large role in how a site develops. It is very important that new sites be more inclusive of varying viewpoints, especially from people of color and women.

[Comment From Rob: ] Interesting. What were the detractors' comments? I haven't seen the place yet but will probably stop by this weekend or over Christmas.

Roz McPherson: Detractors remain on two ends of the spectrum. One side feels that the site does not give enough about the brutality of slavery. Another side felt that the site should have been devoted to the executive branch of government. And there are some who feel that the exhibit needed to be far more comprehensive than it is, a factor that was determined by space and budget.

[Comment From Rob: ] Well, you can't please everybody with something as complex as this.

Roz McPherson: This is true but the team really tried its best. The Oversight Committee agonized long and hard and advocated for the interests of their constituents. Historians also debated many points for hours. It was a very tough task, yet a very important responsibility.

[Comment From sheila: ] is there any talk around phila of taking this approach in future sites here?

Roz McPherson: Sheila, be more specific about what you mean by approach.

[Comment From sheila: ] i mean trying to show the whole good and bad picture instead of the history-book version

Roz McPherson: I am not sure what future plans there are. One new project under development is a commemorative statue devoted to Octavius Catto. As for others, I have been so heavily immersed in President's House that I am not sure.

[Comment From DDaddano: ] I think it's a shame this is at Independence Mall. Give the full picture, yes, but that one space is where we celebrate the positive in our heritage. If this were somewhere else I would have no problem with it.

Roz McPherson: There are many who do not feel that the previous site celebrated their heritage at all. And the site is located where it is because the events occurred there. The whole point is that Independence Mall did not mean independence for all. There is still a great deal to celebrate at the mall. The site does not take away from that. It simply adds yet another dimension.

[Comment From West Philly: ] The Inky makes a point to commend the national park service. But wasn't it Rep. Fattah that passed legislation on the federal level to compel them to designate and build the site. I'm an Inky fan, we should give credit where it's due.

Roz McPherson: The site is a result of the efforts of Congressmen Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, as well as the City of Philadelphia. The property upon which the site is built is part of the National Park Service system. The City of Philadelphia managed the design and construction with input and joint approval from the National Park Service.

[Comment From Mary: ] You stated that all of YOUR press releases give proper credit to ATAC for the role it played in bringing this project 2 fruition but I am concerned that the historical accounting of ATAC's role will not be adequate or even diminished.

Roz McPherson: And that is why it is important for ATAC to continue the excellent job it does of telling what it does. Michael Coard has done a great job of ensuring that no one can forget the role of ATAC. Your presence on this chat does so as well. I do believe that ATAC's role will be a part of the historical telling of the evolution of this site.

Roz McPherson: Mary: You should also note that when press releases go out, the publishing organization is not obligated to put everything in as it is written. That is why each organization must have good writers who can continuously tell their own stories. That is what is so good about Michael Coard. He is an effective and passionate communicator.

[Comment From DDaddano: ] I understand that there were people who did not have independnce at that time. But the point of that area is to celebrate the positive steps, not complain about existing institutions.

Roz McPherson: I appreciate that this is your point of view. The site is not seen as a complaint. It is viewed as an acknowledgment and celebration of the role that people of AFrican descent played in the founding of this country. It is also intended as a way of showing how our democracy has progressed. Also worth celebrating.

[Comment From irv: ] Hello I've never been to Phila but was thinking of bringing my family next summer. Is it true that this new attraction replaced the liberty bell???

Roz McPherson: This site DID NOT replace the Liberty Bell. It is in front of it.

Roz McPherson: The new site is in my opinion, a wonderful new addition to the story of American History. WE hope that you bring your family.

[Comment From DDaddano: ] Well, I think the place for celebrating the progress from that point would be something referencing the civil war. But I appreciate your point of view.

[Comment From irv: ] Maybe that was what I heard, that it was built right in front of it. Or they had to move the bell out of the way for this or something. Anyway, as long as it's still there somehere!

Roz McPherson: Absolutely still there and now there is more. The area has two new attractions that speak to a broader American public, including the American Jewish Museum and the President's House

[Comment From sheila: ] i would suggest to ddadano that this is more of a meaningful celebration than alot of what used to be in the area

Roz McPherson: Thank you Sheila. And please note that this exchange is similar to the discussions of varying viewpoint that occurred as we developed the interpretive plan for th site. There was not always agreement and we have to respect each other's viewpoints, even when we are unable to persuade folks to our way of thinking.

[Comment From Guest: ] How will such a controversial site & exhibit get corporate funding? Is all the funding coming from the Government? Was there a strong feeling that the controversial part of this story should have only been told at the AAM?

Roz McPherson: This site also received corporate funding after the archeological discoveries. Bank of America, PECO and PNC Bank are among the donors for this project. Corporations are often very interested in projects that speak to diversity and inclusion, especially where history is involved. And no, there was never a sentiment that this info should only be provided at the African American Museum. Those are two different experiences and we did tie them together. Visitors can go to AAMP to learn more. The truth of the matter is that more non-African American visitors will learn this info at the entrance to the Liberty Bell. The history of African Americans and slavery should be provided to the general public, not just one small segment.

[Comment From irv: ] Yes I had heard about the American Jewish Museum, that was what started us talking about making a trip.

Roz McPherson: And officials from all of the institutions at Independence Mall have begun the conversation about how they can partner to provide a richer experience to the public. They want to help each other out.

[Comment From Sam Lackey: ] It was a wonderful event and I was truly blessed to be there to witness it. I am doing my best to support J. Justin Ragsdale with his LWF slavery museum located at 3650 Richmond Street where many artifacts from the Atlantic Slave Trade are housed and I think it is a wonderrful resource to learn more about slavery and the impact that it has had. Mr. Ragsdale needs all the help he can get. to keep it open

Roz McPherson: I applaud the efforts of the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum as well. It is yet another example of the many ways to provide history.

Roz McPherson: I am so glad that you were present at the event. It was a beautiful experience for those of us who have been so closely involved for the last few years.

[Comment From irv: ] For people visiting Philly, is that area the main place for historical sightseeing? Are there others?

Roz McPherson: Philadelphia is rich with historical sightseeing. You can visit to find out more.

[Comment From sheila: ] i will have to go but i have enjoyed reading the comments on this chat, thanks for doing it

Roz McPherson: Thanks Sheila.

[Comment From irv: ] Yes and thanks for the tips!

Roz McPherson: Enjoy Philadelphia Irv. Thanks

Roz McPherson: Sam, I am sure that your photos will be appreciated by many.

[Comment From Sam Lackey: ] II was armed with my trusty camera and I have photos and video that I can share with others who were not able to attend. I intend to incorporate the into a web presentation on slavery. Answer came before question...

Roz McPherson: Thanks to all of you for your interest in this project. Have a good holiday season and do visit the Preident's Hous site. Thanks for chatting, Roz, and everybody! Keep up with the latest hot topics and conversations every weekday lunchtime at the Daily News Hot Button!


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