Finding Aid Friday: Philadelphia Edition

This weekend I’m heading to Philadelphia to see the Bearded Ladies Cabaret school Kronenbourg 1664 drinkers, drag queen adorers, history aficionados, and free show lovers on the French Revolution and current events. Today’s Finding Aid Friday is honor of this lovely little town.

First up, Eastern State Penitentiary! The prison-turned-museum (ESP, for short) not only hosts the Storming of the Bastille celebration, but it is also part of the show. Marie Antoinette appears on its rampart and volunteers fling thousands of TastyKakes from its roof onto the audience below. Let them eat cake?

All non-screen caps by me.


I ate this in 2015. I sincerely hope that “05” does not refer to 2005. But it was like a Twinkie, and Twinkies don’t die, so… *shrugs*

Let them eat TASTYKAKE!!

ESP isn’t just a place to fling cakes — it’s a historic landmark! With finding aids! The Eastern State Penitentiary oral history project compiled the reminiscences of 130 inmates, officers, and administrators who worked and lived inside the prison. The biographical section is an informative mini history of prison infrastructure development.

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Eastern State Penitentiary via PASCL

A cool thing about ESP is that it is part of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, or PASCL, and the oral history project was part of the  Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s “hidden collections initiative.” Community! Read more on that here.

Next: The Ur expedition records, held in the Penn Museum Archives. I wrote  about the Penn Museum’s Ur exhibition and my geek-out in its galleries last year. I studied the ancient Near East as an undergrad and I still have a soft spot for it.


Okay. I admit that this is, on the surface, a very boring finding aid. Nothing thrilling for the layman. It’s your standard finding aid. And the collection isn’t that hot, either. The really cool stuff is held at the British Museum (which jointly excavated Ur along with Penn).

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U Penn



These are letters and field reports from one of the most important excavations in the history of ancient Near Eastern archaeology! This is something that someone like me would geek the fuck out over. I would pore over it until I passed out.

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Don’t be fooled by the dowdy exterior. The sexy is within. RAWR! U Penn

Finally, one of the coolest finding aids I’ve found to date: a musical finding aid for the Mary Elizabeth Hallock Greenewalt papers at the  Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP).

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Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Greenewalt was, among other things, a musician and it only seems appropriate that the guide to her papers have a musical flair. I’m neither a musician nor a music aficionado, so I really can’t describe the music, but it is very pretty. Go and listen to the music inspired by the Greenewalt collection!

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Historical Society of Pennsylvania

And on that note, I’m off for a weekend away from the kids. TastyKakes, museums, and bookstores, here I come!


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