Precious Places Community History Project 2017-18

Scribe Video Center is seeking groups to participate in 2018. We are especially interested in places that were or could have been important to a neighborhood’s connection to other parts of the city and beyond such as a proposed rail station or a closed trolley stop. 

Each group will plan, shoot, and edit a video about their “precious place” with the help of a filmmaker and a research scholar hired by Scribe.  While these facilitators will work closely with participants throughout the course of production, the work itself—the planning, writing, and filming—will be done by members of the community groups. 

This program is free for organizations in Philadelphia, Camden and adjoining counties. No prior experience in filmmaking is required.



The Roots Of The Project

The 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.

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.

Watch Precious Places on PhillyCAM
Comcast Cable 66/966HD967, Verizon Fios 29/30
Sundays at noon and repeats on Mondays at 7:00 pm



    Order The Precious Places Community History Project Now On DVD!

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


    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.


    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