Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Summer 2013

Thesis Advisor

Richard Leventhal


This paper explores the relationship between museums and the neighborhoods around them. It looks specifically at the Wagner Free Institute of Science in North Philadelphia. The research begins with the founding of the Wagner in 1855, then focuses on major changes in the institution and community through the 20th century, and ends with an observational analysis of the relationship today. The Wagner and its neighborhood had a close relationship through the 1950’s, when the neighborhood experienced a rapid demographic change and the Wagner simultaneously reduced its programs. This is a break from the founding ideals of the Wagner, which especially targeted underserved audiences. Today the relationship is murkier, the neighborhood is once again going through a period of rapid demographic change, but the Wagner does not view its neighborhood as its primary audience. This paper, ultimately, tries to explore the idea of communities: how communities are defined and who decides which communities are relevant. Museums and community engagement is increasingly important to national organizations like the American Alliance of Museums. Therefore, this project ends by exploring the multiple layers of responsibility that museums and their communities have to each other.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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