Building Knowledge & Breaking Barriers Page 3 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Building Knowledge & Breaking Barriers

This educational programming and exhibit project brings students from the Community College of Philadelphia together with 500 years of historic materials at PHS. Students are developing research and critical-thinking skills by investigating primary source documents. In early 2021, student leaders will install an exhibit recounting their research journeys and deconstructing “archives” as an idea, obstacle, and opportunity.

Learn more about Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers at the project website:

Through semester-long research projects, one-time repository visits, and engagement with online and facsimile versions of primary sources, students use the unique archival holdings at PHS to build their historical analysis skills and produce original scholarship. Student learning is supported by contextual essays and reading questions that help frame primary source documents and prompt critical reading. Professors provide scaffolding exercises to help students engage with complex topics and challenging source materials.

Community College of Philadelphia classes we have worked with to date include:

  • 19th Century U.S. History 
  • African American History to 1877
  • Religion in American History
  • Philadelphia History: Architecture and Planning
  • Creative Writing
  • Research Writing

Learn about the project's beginnings on the PHS blog or contact us directly to find out more.

Read two student essays from an earlier collaboration with Philadelphia community college students.

Survey a list of documents used by a history class in Spring 2019.

Access the Student Information Page for classes that have recently visited PHS.

Read student and other project blogs

Explore an anthology of student fiction writing.


Building Knowledge and Breaking Barriers has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.