Student oral history research provides insights into urban greening
On Friday, October 10th, Professor Hurley shared the findings of a collaborative research project with Shakiya Canty (Class of 2013) by phone as part of the 2014 Oral History Association meetings being held in Madison, WI. The presentation, which drew from a book chapter that is part of a collective edition of oral history pieces entitled “The Land Speaks: Public Lands, Public Stories,” explored the history of vacant lot gardening in the Haddington neighborhood of West Philadelphia. The insights come from Shakiya’s Summer Fellows Research in the Summer of 2011 and past research by Environmental Studies students. In 2010, students in the Urbanization and Environment class conducted oral history interviews with residents of the Haddington neighbhorhood, who were living next to vacant lots targeted by Urban Tree Connection (UTC). UTC, a non-profit, works to convert the lots into productive community spaces, often focusing on food production. The oral history interviews revealed a “hidden legacy” of food production by community members in the areas now being reclaimed by UTC. During her Summer Fellows and subsequent research, Shakiya Canty spoke with long-time residents (many of them former farmers in the neighbhorhood) as well as a Penn State Extension agent to document this legacy. Their stories helped to construct a spatial history of gardening and changing lot uses in the neighborhood, revealing new insights into the efforts by UTC to grow local food and steward public commons in Haddington.