Skip to main content
Story Search From Special Collections

Story Search From Special Collections

By The Free Library of Philadelphia
A podcast series exploring stories based on, inspired by, or connected to material artifacts
Where to listen
Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Currently playing episode

S1 Episode 1: In Praise of Forgeries

Story Search From Special Collections

S2 Episode 1: The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) – When Cultural Workers Were Paid Salaried Workers
In this episode of Story Search from Special Collections, Joe Shemtov interviews Allan Edmunds, founder of Brandywine Workshop and Archives, and visual artists Virginia Maksymowicz and Blaise Tobia. They discuss the benefits of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) from personal and community perspectives. Inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s, a New Deal program that employed artists in public works, CETA was a federal law enacted by congress in 1973 to train workers and provide jobs in public service. Find more information at the CETA Arts Legacy Project, In September 2021, the Free Library of Philadelphia will present For the Greatest Number: The New Deal Revisited. This exhibition will take a thematic look at the art and artifacts created by New Deal workers that shaped the infrastructure, morale, and myth of the United States.
July 17, 2021
S1 Episode 10: MOVE Bombing
On May 13, 1985 the City of Philadelphia ordered the Philadelphia police to drop two bombs onto the roof of the homes of MOVE organization members, primarily a townhouse located at 6221 Osage Avenue. The bombing killed six MOVE members and five of their children. The resulting fire was left to burn by the fire department by order of the police, destroying 65 houses in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia. The Free Library of Philadelphia has an extensive collection of materials on the MOVE bombing including documents from the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission and transcripts of public hearings. The ramifications of this bombing are still affecting MOVE and our city today. On this podcast we will be talking to Janine Phillips Africa and Sue Africa about the 1985 MOVE bombing, the MOVE organization, and their current emotional roller coaster over their family’s remains being held by the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and the City of Philadelphia.
June 26, 2021
S1 Episode 9: Thomas Morton and The New Canaan: The America That Could Have Been
In this episode we discuss a book written by  Thomas Morton (c.1579 –1647)  an early colonist of North America and his book New English Canaan,  printed in Amsterdam in 1637, a copy of which can be found in The Free Library of Philadelphia’s  Americana Collection. Our guest is Peter C. Mancall. In his 2019 book, The Trials of Thomas Morton: An Anglican Lawyer, His Puritan Foes, and the Battle for a New England, he  writes about the importance of Morton and The New English Canaan. Professor Mancall is a history professor at  the University of Southern California, focusing on early America, Native Americans, and the early modern Atlantic world.
May 13, 2021
S1 Episode 8: Music of the Ephrata Cloister and the Pennsylvania Germans
This episode is inspired by The Free Library’s collection of Pennsylvania German printed books, manuscripts, and works of art. Our guests are Dr. Alex Ames and Dr. Christopher Herbert. Ames is author of The Word in The Wilderness, host of Cloister Talk: The Pennsylvania German Material Texts Podcast, and Collections Engagement Manager at the Rosenbach Museum & Library. Herbert is a musicologist, professional opera singer, and Assistant Professor at William Paterson University where he leads the Vocal Studies program. His current research and our conversation today focus on the music of the Ephrata Cloister, an eighteenth-century commune in Pennsylvania.
April 08, 2021
S1 Episode 7: Now Is the Time. Connecting Three Historical Figures: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stephen Girard, and Toussaint Louverture
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Philadelphia on August 3, 1965 to protest the discriminatory admission policies of Girard College. Photographs of that visit are now in the Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia and they inspire our discussion today. Joining us is Mharlyn Merritt, an author and former Free Library employee who attended the march as a teenager; today’s podcast is based in part on her personal account. Kathy Haas, Director of Historical Resources at Girard College, will talk about how Stephen Girard connects to Toussaint Louverture and the importance of that connection to the Civil Rights narrative in the 1960s. And Professor Marlene Daut, specialist in early and 19th-century American and Caribbean literary and cultural studies at the University of Virginia, will discuss Toussaint Louverture’s role as leader of the only successful slave revolt against European powers in modern history.
February 22, 2021
S1 Episode 6: A Tribute to Lillian Marrero: The Mural and Her Legacy
Tribute to Lillian Marrero by Danny Torres and Peter Pagast is a mural at the intersection of N 6th St and W Lehigh Ave. Completed in 2005 by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the painting honors Lillian Marrero for her work and dedication to the North Philadelphia community. Marrero was a librarian, advocate, and community leader. In 2006, the neighborhood library where Marrero worked, across the street from the mural, was renamed in her honor. In this episode, we’ll speak with three of our colleagues from the Lillian Marrero Library: Tania Maria Rios Marrero, daughter of Lillian Marrero and Community Organizer, Mieka Moody, Library Supervisor, and Natalie Walker, Digital Resource Specialist. Tribute to Lillian Marrero (c) 2005 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Peter Pagast & Danny Torres. Photo by Jack Ramsdale.
February 06, 2021
S1 Episode 5: Three Stories from Indigenous Muslim Philadelphians
Hosted by Joe Shemtov and Andrea Lemoins Our first season will be dedicated to artifacts kept at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Shaykh Sayed Abdul-Hadi and Assistant Imam Hudhaifah AbdulHayy, two Islamic leaders who have come from different walks of life, come together to share their stories and truths about being members of the indigenous Muslim population in Philadelphia and establishing freedoms and cultural norms that many currently enjoy. The show is co-hosted by Shahadah Abdul-Rashid, a Community Initiatives Specialist who shares tidbits about her modern-day experiences as a Muslimah navigating within the current world. This podcast was edited by Hannah Cho.
December 22, 2020
S1 Episode 4: Philadelphia’s Labor Unions, Past to Present
Hosted by Joe Shemtov and Andrea Lemoins Our first season will be dedicated to artifacts kept at the Free Library of Philadelphia. In this episode, we talk to Alexis Ahiagbe, Perry Genovesi, and Peter Santa Maria, staff members at the Free Library of Philadelphia, about the labor uprising at the Free Library in the summer of 2020 that led to the resignation of the Executive Director, Siobhan Reardon. Joe Shemtov ties this current labor fight, based on race and class, with the life and works of George Lippard, a famous 19th-century American novelist, journalist, playwright, social activist, and labor organizer. Lippard, a friend of Edgar Allan Poe, was from South Philadelphia. The Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department has several of Lippard’s works in its collection, including The Quaker City. This podcast was edited by Hannah Cho.
December 19, 2020
S1 Episode 3: Souls Shot Portrait Exhibition: Remembering Lost Lives
Hosted by Andrea Lemoins Our first season will be dedicated to artifacts kept at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Souls Shot: Portraits of Victims of Gun Violence is on display at Logan Library, November through December 2020. This exhibition pairs artists with the family and friends of those who died by gun violence. After meeting with the victims' loved ones, the artists attempt to capture, in portraits, the unique qualities of these gone but not forgotten souls. Today we speak to some of the artists, family members, and community organizers involved with this traveling exhibition. Visit for more information. This podcast was edited by Hannah Cho.
November 23, 2020
S1 Episode 2: Stolen Identities: The Many Faces of James Bond, 007
Hosted by Joe Shemtov and Andrea Lemoins Our first season will be dedicated to artifacts kept at the Free Library of Philadelphia. In this episode, we speak with Jim Wright, who recently wrote the book, "The Real James Bond: A True Story of Identity Theft, Avian Intrigue and Ian Fleming." In his book, Wright explores a case of stolen identities and dives into how Fleming “stole” the name of James Bond, a real-life well-known Philadelphia Ornithologist. This episode is timely not only because Sean Connery recently passed away, but also since the latest James Bond movie is to be released next year. A significant part of Wright's book is based on his research at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which keeps the James Bond collection (given by his widow, Mary Wickham Bond). We also talk to Katie Birkwood, Rare Books and Special Collections librarian at the Royal College of Physicians in London, England. In 2016, she curated the exhibition Scholar, Courtier, Magician: the Lost Library of John Dee. Birkwood discusses the alleged origin of the term "007" -- rumors have it that it originated from Dee, a 16th-century advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. We have a rare map of the Northwest West Passage made by John Dee in the Rare Book Department. The opening narration by Raphael Corkhill is from the Audible version of "The Real James Bond," published by Schiffer Publishing. This podcast was edited by Hannah Cho.
November 16, 2020
S1 Episode 1: In Praise of Forgeries
Hosted by Joe Shemtov and Andrea Lemoins Our first season will be dedicated to artifacts kept at the Free Library of Philadelphia. "In Praise of Forgeries" Forgeries are designed to fool us. But do they also expose us to truths about the things we value, and why?  In this podcast, we interviewed author Bradford Morrow. Mr. Morrow is the author of his newly released book, "The Forger's Daughter," which follows a reformed literary forger, whose entire family becomes involved in a plot to counterfeit one of the rarest books in America: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane, which he wrote and paid to have printed as a teenager. The Rare Book Department owns a rare, first edition copy printed in 1847 in its collection, and the author mentions it in his book. This podcast was edited by Hannah Cho.
November 11, 2020