February 7, 2023

WCU Welcomes Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery

Gwen Ragsdale to speak at Beyond the Bell: Philadelphia’s Global Heritage exhibit

gwen ragsdale speaks at west chester universityOn Monday, February 13, at 3:30 p.m., Gwen Ragsdale will present a free lecture in person and virtually in WCU’s Philips Autograph Library, located at the corner of High Street and University Avenue. Ragsdale is the founder and executive director of Philadelphia’s Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery, which is the only slavery museum in Philadelphia and the only museum with legitimate artifacts from the Transatlantic slave trade. An exhibition tour and reception will follow in the University’s Museum of Anthropology and Archeology in the Old Library at the corner of South Church Street and Rosedale Avenue.

Register here for the in-person or virtual event.

Using her collection of rare, authentic artifacts as a guide, Ragsdale illustrates the different coming-to-America experiences held by enslaved people. Her visit is part of a series of lectures held by WCU’s museum in connection with its Beyond the Bell: Philadelphia’s Global Heritage exhibition. Created in partnership with the Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), the exhibit was designed to inform attendees of the diverse history surrounding the greater Philadelphia area.

According to Michael Di Giovine, museum director, director of the Museum Studies Program, and lead curator for the exhibit, “Gwen’s talk, in which she points out that not everyone came to Philadelphia for the same celebrated reasons such as freedom of religion or to participate in a robust labor market, causes us to stop and think about the sacrifices of so many different people, the suffering of so many different people, and how we should be empathetic toward others and grateful for the lives we have today.”

Featuring priceless artifacts from Native American, African, and numerous immigrant communities, the Beyond the Bell exhibit is designed to provide a perspective different from what visitors learned in their school history curricula. These rare artifacts are on loan from such organizations as the National Park Service, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Ephrata Cloister, and more.

 “The Global Philadelphia Association graciously connected us with many of their members, including Gwen and the Lest We Forget Museum,” said Di Giovine. “The rich collection of artifacts we see in Beyond the Bell are here at WCU because of the many generous lenders from community organizations and museums, a number of whom are members of GPA.”

Lest We Forget event

Following the lecture, attendees are invited to a reception followed by a guided tour of the exhibit led by Di Giovine and the student co-curators: Virginia Vinston, history graduate student; Harrison Warren, museum studies minor; and Jackie Armao, museum studies minor. During this event, WCU’s autographed copy of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography will also be on display.

This event is co-sponsored by the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, the Frederick Douglass Institute, the Anthropology Club, the Institute on Race and Ethnic Studies, and the WCU Alumni Association.

In March, the museum will host other speakers:

  • March 1: WCU Dean of the Wells School of Music Chris Hanning and Hayoung Lee, associate professor of music history, will discuss Philadelphia’s rich musical heritage.
  • March 22: John Baker, WCU professor emeritus of art, will join several artists whose work is on display to discuss how Philadelphia’s diverse ethnic communities have impacted their work.

Registration for these events, including Ragsdale’s lecture, can be found at the Alumni Association website: www.wcualumni.org/BeyondtheBell.

The exhibit will be open through May 1, 2023. For more information, visit www.wcupa.edu/BeyondtheBell or contact mdigiovine@wcupa.edu.



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