Precious Places

Precious Places Community History Project is a community oral history project inviting members of Philadelphia's many neighborhoods to document the buildings, public spaces, parks, landmarks and other sites that hold the memories of our communities and define where we live. Unlike oral history projects in other cities, Precious Places teaches the video production process to participating groups, fostering projects authored by those who intimately know the featured neighborhoods.

Precious Places on WHYY-TV Channel 12
Beginning Tuesday, October 11 at 11:00 pm, tune in to Channel 12 for a weekly broadcast of the complete Precious Places Community History Project series (26 weeks). 


Precious Places Community History Project Premiere

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DVD $20 (individual viewing)




    The Precious Places Community History Project brings together neighborhood groups, independent videographers affiliated with Scribe, and humanities scholars to understand how the history of specific sites in the Philadelphia region have defined neighborhoods and affected the lives of local residents. Many of this year’s projects focus on communities formed during the first Great Migration (1916-1934), the mass movement of African-Americans from the southern states to the north.    


    Historical sites and Producing groups include:

    BEing from Beckett (North Philadelphia)  Produced by Union Housing Development Corporation
    Beckett Gardens’ history spans over four decades. Residents tell how they have created “home” amidst the challenges that have faced North Philadelphia.

    Belmont Grove: Reclaiming Coaquannock (Fairmount Park) Produced by Ollin Yolitzli Calmecac
    This film tells the story of how Belmont Plateau served as a powerful gathering space for Philadelphia's native communities from 1974-1992 and what impact the loss of that space had. 

    Christian Street YMCA: Sharing Our History (South Central)  by the Christian Street YMCA
    The Christian Street YMCA is one of the oldest Black YMCA’s in the US and served as a gathering place for African Americans during the Great Migration. 

    Black Star Rising: The Universal Negro Improvement Association in Philadelphia (North Philadelphia)  by Members of UNIA-ACL-Thomas Harvey Division
    Much of UNIA’s growth in Philadelphia was due to the migration of African Americans leaving the South and attracted to the UNIA’s mission of self-determination and economic improvement.

    William Penn High School: The Story of a Great School's Promise (North Philadelphia) by the William Penn High School Alumni Association
    The history of William Penn High School, a high school originally established for girls, parallels larger trends in the city’s approach and commitment to public education.  

    Finding Home: The Ruth L. Bennett House  (Chester, PA) by Members of the Ruth L. Bennett House, Chester Housing Authority & citizens of Chester, PA
    The Ruth L. Bennett House began as a safe haven for women and children arriving to Chester from the South during the early years of the Great Migration. 

    Victory Voices: Visions Anew (Lower North Philadelphia) by Members of St. Paul Baptist Church
    St. Paul’s Baptist Church’s amazing journey from finding a permanent house of worship to becoming a force in the social and political life of the community is retold. 

    John Coltrane Place: Giant Steps of Philadelphia (Strawberry Mansion)  by tThe John Coltrane House Film Committee
    The John Coltrane House, which was the home of the musical genius John Coltrane, is under-recognized as an important cultural asset to Philadelphia.

    Charles Albert Tindley: Here Am I, Send Me (South Central) by The Charles Albert Tindley Institute (CATI)
    Tindley Temple Methodist Church, led by the visionary Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, played a pivotal role in welcoming thousands of Southerners to Philadelphia.  




    Limited availability.  Please RSVP



    About Precious Places

    The Roots Of The Project

    Conceived as a way to mark the 20th anniversary of Scribe Video Center, the Precious Places video documentaries celebrate Philadelphia's richness of neighborhoods, buildings, public spaces and landmarks. They record community memories and help define where we live at a time when so many of the city's memories are undergoing so much change.

    Scribe had long felt that Philadelphia lacked but deserved a compiled oral history of its streets, squares, monuments, and buildings, where social and cultural richness have led to the development of complex, diverse and vibrant communities. Through more than two decades of work with individuals and groups, of teaching and guiding people as they made documentaries that brought their dreams and visions to life, we knew that many more stories were out there just waiting to be told. And we shared with others concerns about the disinterest, deterioration, gentrification, unfamiliarity and even misinformation that endanger so much of the region. Community oral history, we thought, was an ideal way to spread the words and the sights of these precious places and to celebrate them and the people who cherish them.

    The Process

    Neighborhood groups collaborate with research consultants and experienced filmmakers to document their neighborhoods. These facilitators provide training on oral history and documentary production, but it is the community group members themselves who plan, research, and write their films. Each group spends an entire day shooting footage in the neighborhood, conducting interviews and documenting important sites and events. After editing their videos, groups publicly screen their work at major Philadelphia venues such as the Kimmel Center and the International House, as well as screening as part of Street Movies and other Scribe programs.

    Producing a documentary video is a chance to honor and give voice to local experience, knowledge, and expertise; to become the author, not just the subject, of your neighborhood’s history. Community groups learn the skill of producing oral histories to uncover the rich stories that make up our past. Finally, the project is a valuable opportunity to make us aware of our diverse neighborhoods and the development policies that often render certain ‘precious places’ out of existence.


    The Complete Series

    Scribe Video Center has collaborated with dozens of community groups in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester, Coatesville, and Ardmore to produce 61 neighborhood histories. Through Precious Places, Philadelphia now joins the ranks of other cities such as New York and Los Angeles in having a citywide oral history project. With Precious Places, however, the community members themselves create their own videos about the people and places that make our city unique.

    Order The Precious Places Community History Project Now On DVD!

    The complete 3 DVD series seen on WHYY TV 12 is available for purchase.

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 1 Produced in 2004-2007

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 2 Produced in 2004-2007

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 3 Produced in 2004-2007

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 4 Produced in 2008-2009

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 5 Produced in 2009-2010

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 6 Produced in 2010-2011

    Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 7 Produced in 2015-2016