Audio tour highlights historic preservation flash points in Philly’s Old City — NewsWorks

A new audio walking tour of Philadelphia’s Old City guides people through historic preservation hot spots with their phones. 


The Chemical Heritage Foundation, at 3rd and Chestnut Street in Old City, is the force behind the tour and currently has an exhibition about the science of preservation, “Things Fall Apart.” It describes how certain materials decay and ways to prevent it through chemistry.

 

Including Barbie Dolls.

“The torso is a different kind of plastic than the legs,” said CHF’s Rebecca Ortenberg. “So it decomposes in a weird way.”

Ortenberg is a program associate in charge of leading people out of the exhibition gallery, into the surrounding streets to explore the neighborhood. The audio tour she coordinated is mostly about ethical and cultural issues of preservation, not so much material science of falling apart.

“We are a history of science institution. We tend to approach science sideways, finding new ways to approach those questions,” she said.

The audio guide is part of the Detour mobile app. Once downloaded, it is driven by your phone’s GPS, so it knows where you are standing and how long it takes you to walk to the next location.

If you were standing, for example, at Jeweler’s Row, at 7th and Sansom streets, the app will describe the relevant preservation issues at that spot.

“In August 2016, the Toll Brothers real estate company announced a plan to build a residential tower in the middle of Jeweler’s Row,” recites the app’s narrator, Elisabeth Berry Drago, also the curator of “Things Fall Apart.”

Drago, with an audio clip from an interview with Paul Steinke of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, describe the public resistance to development tampering with the historic character of Jeweler’s Row.

“You might be able to see some Save Jeweler’s Row signs in the windows,” said Drago on the app. What is not mentioned is there are also pro-development signs in some windows on the block.

The audio tour takes a…

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