It's 9am, and the train to Philadelphia has just arrived at the 30th street Station. Steam hisses from the manholes as rainwater sears on hot equipment. Sunlight filters through, and birdflaps flutter between the iron rafters. A mosaic of wool overcoats, hats, and bags cacophonize strains of fashion clash, as designed individualism merges with purchased individualism to make...wait for it...Oh whatever, I'll drop the poetic, working-class boy schtick for one day at least.
I like taking the train to Philadelphia. Bags in hand, I rush down stairs, up stairs, into brown brick hallways. I set them down and wait. Signs scream silently. Rails clatter, and amplified voices call out, echoing in the subway cars. There is a rythm to the feet between the streets, on sidewalks and among the crowded spaces. In-between other, darker, one-way half-walks, we squeze between a building and the signs. Strides and cracks.I duck down a street, and within less than a block, there is peace. A workman eases orange cones out of his truck. In the sunlight, the damp roads gilsten.
There it is. I stop to adjust my things. To the side, Benjamin Franklin looks on: austere, but friendly. I'm here.
I'm in good company.
Call me odd, but of all the places I have visited during my research in Philadelphia, I have most thoroughly enjoyed time spent at the Library Company of Philadelphia. It's not just a building, not just an institution founded by Benjamin Franklin, not ust a repository of information and artifact. It is one of those legendary places in a city you think can only be imagined, the sort of place you only expect to find after wandering, aimlessly lost, only to stumble into some unknown doorway, into a new world. Imagine, then my surprise and delight to find this place a second time, and to find it just as marvelous.
There are smiles here.
The information, artifacts, and archives are pretty good too ;-). The Library Company provided nearly a third of the source images for the Philadelphia Fullerine, a sculpture project I completed last year. They do marvelous, efficient, professional work. When I visited, the people of the Library Company prints department scurried about trying to find things which could work. It was like a feast. The ladies just kept on sliding boxes in front of me.
Charlene Peacock, on the right, has been particularly helpful to me, but I must admit. Everyone has been so helpful and cheerful. During my visits to the Library Company, I truly felt like I was in good company.
I recently received an email from the Library Company. My sculpture/hypermedia on Philadelphia History has been featured in the LCP Newsletter!