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A woman stands in a softly-lit library surrounded by bookshelves.

The Penn Libraries is pleased to welcome Samantha Hill as Curator for Civic Engagement. An award-winning trans-disciplinary artist whose practice draws upon archives and oral histories collected by individuals and communities, Hill was born in Philadelphia, most recently based in Chicago, and has worked with communities in Anchorage, Alaska; Macon, Georgia; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

She is the founder and Primary Investigator for the Kinship Project, a special collection which contains 4,000 candid and professional family pictures (photographs, scrapbooks, tintypes & digital images), mostly of African Americans, from across the country. By simultaneously playing the role of artist, archivist, and anthropologist, she engages communities in the development of multi-media installations and performances grounded in individual and community memory.

“The Penn Libraries has made it a strategic priority to intentionally strengthen outreach and engagement that positively impact local communities,” says Constantia Constantinou, H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Libraries. “Samantha’s expertise across disciplines and deep experience in partnership-building will be invaluable to our work on campus and throughout Philadelphia.”

As part of the curatorial team in the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts, Hill will bring the Center’s expertise in preserving and providing access to cultural heritage to communities in and around the city of Philadelphia. While the Penn Libraries is an active collecting institution, Hill expects to work in a post-custodial model, where the artifacts of memory are not extracted from the communities that create and nurture them, but rather Penn’s experience in processing, preserving, digitizing, and providing access to such material might help advance the goals of those communities while promoting research and teaching.

According to Sean Quimby, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the Kislak Center, Hill’s appointment will “amplify efforts already underway throughout the city to ensure that contemporary history is preserved for the benefit of all Philadelphians and for those who wish to understand the city’s rich and vibrant communities.”

As Curator for Civic Engagement, Hill will also serve as a Fellow with Civic House, Penn’s hub for student civic engagement, centering community organizations and social justice education. Founded in 1998, Civic House runs a variety of initiatives, including the Penn Civic Scholars Program, which involves up to 15 students in each class seeking to integrate their civic engagement and scholarship experiences as undergraduates. Commenting on Hill’s arrival at Penn, Civic House Director David Grossman says, “Samantha’s experiences and perspectives align beautifully with the lenses Civic House employs in our work with students, faculty, and community partners. We are thrilled about the opportunity to work with her as a resource in supporting our existing efforts, in designing future programs, and in uplifting the work and voices of the broader community.”

Hill comes to Penn from the University of Michigan, where she earned a Master of Information Science. She also earned a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. On her return to Philadelphia and her new role in the Kislak Center, Hill reflects, It is an honor to join the Kislak Center to collect and share the diverse cultural histories of Philadelphia. I am also excited to join the Civic House team to support organizations in their mission for community equity while providing opportunities to students to engage in this work through educational experiences. I look forward to working alongside communities at Penn and throughout Philadelphia to create initiatives that extend access to community knowledge while providing engagement for social good.”

About the Kislak Center

The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts advances learning and inspires discovery in Penn's community and around the world. The goals of the Kislak Center align with those of the Penn Libraries as a whole: to make our collections accessible; to use technology in innovative and meaningful ways; to enhance teaching and research; and to preserve our cultural resources for future generations.

About The Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries provides a network of information resources and knowledge services that are vital to teaching, research, and learning at the University of Pennsylvania. This network includes 14 physical libraries, recognized for their collections, and a digital library known for innovation and richness of content. Through exhibitions and lectures, and through the acquisition and preservation of literary and artistic artifacts, the Penn Libraries documents a wealth of social and historical periods, bringing scholarship to life at the University and in the various communities it serves.



September 15, 2021