Sonia Prescott helps students with research. Photo by Kristen Gaydos.

Sonia Prescott helps students with research at the PHS Reading Room. Photo by Kristen Gaydos.

The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) will host an open house on October 6 to celebrate the Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers exhibit.

After a year and a half delay due to the Covid pandemic, PHS will celebrate the BKBB project, the institution’s multi-year collaboration with Community College of Philadelphia (CCP).

From 2019 into 2021, seven CCP students worked collaboratively with two professional exhibitors, a project videographer and three PHS staff members to reveal parts of the PHS archive that meant the most to them through the Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers exhibit. The exhibit team’s work — on display at the PHS building and through an online version of the exhibit — spotlights topics including the Black church, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, representative public art in Philadelphia, abolition/revolution and white Christian attitudes toward Asian communities.

BKBB began in 2017 when PHS welcomed CCP students and professors into the archive to conduct research using primary sources from the collections. The collaboration grew out of a belief that PHS could create meaningful firsthand encounters between community college students and historically resonant documents, build research and critical-thinking skills important to student success in academic and vocational pursuits and identify ways to assist Philadelphia students and educators more in the future. Confronting barriers to student access and inclusion at PHS was also a main project goal.

In 2018, PHS was awarded a grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to expand the classroom collaboration, create a project website for educators to access primary sources from the PHS collections, and fund the CCP student designed exhibit at PHS.

The outdoor exhibit includes additional information by the statues. Photo by Kristen Gaydos.

The outdoor exhibit includes additional information by the statues. Photo by Kristen Gaydos.


During the October 6 open house, PHS will open its doors to the community to finally celebrate the work of the student exhibit designers. From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time, friends of PHS and CCP will gather at the PHS building in Philadelphia to hear insights from the designers and enjoy food and drink provided by the Society. Learn more about this free event here:

For those not in the Philadelphia area, there are virtual opportunities to learn about the project. This Thursday, September 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, PHS is hosting a webinar for viewers to learn more about Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers. During the broadcast, PHS staff will be joined by a CCP professor and a student exhibit designer who will share about their experiences working in the archives. Click here to join the PHS LIVE webinar:

Learn more about BKBB: