Research Center Hosts Week of Free, Public Events Exploring History of Cooper Street

By Tom McLaughlin

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers University–Camden, in conjunction with community partners, will celebrate the past, present, and future of historic Cooper Street in Camden with a week of free, public events.

The events, held during Camden County History Week from Oct. 15 to 21, will feature history tours, pop-up exhibits, and poetry and craft workshops that will engage guests with the Cooper Street of yesteryear, today, and tomorrow.

“Participants will learn the myriad ways in which Cooper Street is an incredible, historical asset for Rutgers–Camden and the City of Camden,” says Charlene Mires, a professor of history and director of MARCH at Rutgers–Camden.

For more information regarding events or to sign up for “Discover Cooper Street!” tours, contact project coordinator Mikaela Maria at mam842@scarletmail.rutgers.edu.

Poetry Workshop
Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Writers House, located at 305 Cooper Street on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Participants are invited to create a work that explores an aspect of their personal, family, or neighborhood history. Guests are encouraged, but not required, to bring a family photo, document, or artifact.

Noreen Scott-Garrity leads an art tour in Johnson Park.

“The Integration of Rutgers–Camden and the Student Sit-Ins of 1969”
Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 3:30 p.m. at a location to be determined. Guests are asked to meet outside the Honors College, located at 319 Cooper Street on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Wayne Glasker, an associate professor of history at Rutgers–Camden, and Roy Jones, a 1970 graduate of Rutgers–Camden and executive director of the National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces, Inc., will lead the discussion.

Camden 28 Documentary Screening
Friday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. in the 401 Penn Classroom, accessible from the side entrance of the Paul Robeson Library on the Rutgers–Camden campus. Camden 28 is a 2007 documentary about 28 members of the “Catholic Left,” who were arrested in 1971 for attempting to break in and vandalize a draft board in Camden.

“Discover Cooper Street!”
Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Programming will include three pop-up exhibits from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.:

  • The RCA Heritage Program at Rowan University will showcase RCA’s historical role in the development of science and technology in the southern New Jersey region at 606 Cooper Street. The one-day pop-up exhibit will feature RCA Victor players and electronics, historical photos and information about RCA workers in Camden, and items related to the famous mascot, Nipper.
  • The Campbell Corporate Archives will host a pop-up exhibit in Johnson Park, located at 101 Cooper Street. The exhibit will feature artifacts, photographs, and records relating to the company’s founding in Camden, early product portfolio, manufacturing on the waterfront, its employees, and South Jersey contract farmers.
  • Ken Hohing, an assistant professor of art and head of the photography concentration at Rutgers–Camden, will present a pop-up exhibit titled “Camden: Then and Now: Photographs by Ken Hohing” at the MARCH office, located at 325 Cooper Street on the Rutgers–Camden campus. The exhibit will feature Hohing’s five-year photographic investigation into the city of Camden in the 1980s. Paired with present-day photographs of these locations, Hohing’s wok offers a look at the history of a changing city.

“Discover Cooper Street!” tours will be held as follows:

Among the many art treasures in Johnson Park is Sir George Frampton’s cast bronze statue “Peter Pan.”

“The Art of Johnson Park”
Beginning at the former Cooper Library steps in Johnson Park at noon. Noreen Scott Garrity, associate director of education for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, will lead a walking tour exploring the art of Johnson Park and the former Cooper Library, which together represent one of the most significant and unique cultural, historical, and artistic resources in the city of Camden and the state of New Jersey.

“Historic Houses of Cooper Street”
Beginning at the northeast corner of Second Street and Cooper Street at 1 p.m. Mires will lead a walking tour down Cooper Street and through time as guests explore the historic homes and the lives of those who lived and worked on Cooper Street over the last two centuries.

“Public Art on Cooper Street”
Beginning at the northeast corner of Second Street and Cooper Street at 2 p.m. Scott Garrity will lead a walking tour of historic Cooper Street and the surrounding public art in Camden that is sure to bring out guests’ creativity. Participants are encouraged to bring along sketchbooks, cameras, or journals to capture their own vision of Cooper Street and its many scenic treasures.

“Create Your Own Sketch Book”
Participants are encouraged to create their own unique sketchbooks at home or right away if inspiration strikes at a pop-up exhibit or on a walking tour. All ages are welcome to participate.

According to MARCH researchers, Cooper Street dates to the 18th century and includes the Cooper Street Historic District, which is listed on the National Register for Historic Places on the basis of its architecture and its reflection of trends in American history. Originally a thoroughfare connecting South Jersey with ferries to Philadelphia, Cooper Street evolved into a fashionable residential neighborhood during Camden’s period of greatest growth: in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Over time, properties on Cooper Street also housed medical and professional offices, businesses, organizations, and industries. Many of the preserved, restored, or adapted homes in the historic district are now used by Rutgers for educational or administrative purposes. The historic district also provides a setting for students to learn about local history, urban development, and historic preservation, among other topics.

“Discover Cooper Street!” is supported with a $4,980 Incubation Grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities for community-building activities on Cooper Street.

“With the Incubation Grant, MARCH and its partners aim to raise awareness of Cooper Street’s historic significance and increase participation as a step toward future planning for interpretation and creative place-making,” says Maria, a MARCH programs assistant and a 2015 public history graduate of Rutgers–Camden, who submitted the successful Incubation Grant application.

Partners in the project include Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, the Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association, Tabernacle of Faith Church, Rowan University at Camden, the Rutgers–Camden Writers House, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, and LEAP Academy.

Formed in 2001 with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, MARCH’s mission is to support humanities research, programming, training, and communications throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The organization collaborates with cultural and historical organizations and universities in developing new models for advanced work in the humanities, supporting humanities programs, strengthening community identity, fostering learning opportunities, preserving cultural resources, and educating visitors. For more information about MARCH, visit march.rutgers.edu.

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