Philadelphia is a city rich in historic and cultural resources. Those resources reflect the contributions of the diverse people and communities who have lived there for millennia.

Yet Philadelphia’s inventory of acknowledged and protected resources does not reflect that diversity. Much of the cultural history that makes Philadelphia unique goes unrecognized.

To address that disparity the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will develop a cultural resources survey plan. It will then test that plan in a pilot project. DPD has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for individuals and firms to take part in that effort.

DPD is not seeking one firm to handle all aspects of the project. Rather it is looking to compile a list of participants from which diverse project teams can be created. The City will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) this summer to create those teams.

The project team will develop and test a community-led process for identifying, surveying, and documenting the stories and spaces that represent Philadelphia’s rich and varied past.

Mayor Kenney’s Historic Preservation Task Force recommended the cultural resources survey. The purpose is to identify, recognize and protect the traditions, stories, food, folklore, and other cultural resources of Philadelphia.

“The history of Philadelphia is about more than the buildings we’ve built,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “It is about the places we go, the experiences we have, the cultures we celebrate. I am pleased that we are beginning the process to recognize that history through a community-focused effort.”

The RFQ asks respondents to document expertise in the following areas to achieve the project goals:

  • Community Outreach and Advocacy. A two-year community outreach effort will be at the heart of this project. DPD seeks to build trust, develop relationships, and engage local communities in the process of identifying and documenting cultural resources. These relationships will extend beyond the life of this project.
  • Research and Development. From Fall 2021 to Fall 2022 the project team will establish a people-centered approach for research and survey to document the city’s cultural history. That approach will result in four-to-eight thematic statements focusing on historically underrepresented communities. The team will develop a draft survey plan and identify a pilot geographic area or thematic focus to test that plan.
  • Analysis and Implementation. From Summer 2022 to Summer 2023 continued community outreach will test the draft Cultural Resources Survey plan. A final plan will identify preservation strategies, establish a strategic and equitable prioritization methodology, recommend data collection and storage needs, and identify staffing and maintenance needs.

“I’m excited to see this recommendation move forward,” said Betty Turner, who participated in the work of the Historic Preservation Task Force. Turner, a Germantown historic preservation activist, continued, “Philadelphia history is so diverse. I am pleased that we are going to better recognize and celebrate that diversity.”

The William Penn Foundation has provided $250,000 to support the project.

DPD expects respondents to the RFQ to provide a summary of their skills and to explain the parts of the process for which they are qualified. Areas of qualification include project management, historic or cultural preservation, advocacy/outreach, community engagement, and survey work. Based on those submissions DPD will invite qualified individuals and firm to respond to the RFP.

Respondents are not limited to individuals and firms who use their skills professionally. A combination of lived experiences and education builds expertise. The summary of skills may include relevant compensated and volunteer work experiences or educational experience. Respondents may submit work that engages Philadelphia communities, community planning projects, story-telling projects, crowd-sourcing projects, historic or heritage preservation, cultural asset mapping and other experiences as evidence of expertise.

The goal of the RFQ/RFP process is to engage a team that represents the diversity of Philadelphia’s residents and demonstrates a commitment to this work. The City encourages minority, women, and disadvantaged businesses and individuals to apply.

The deadline for written questions about the RFQ is June 1 at 5 p.m. DPD will post written responses online by June 7 at 5 p.m. DPD will hold a virtual question-and-answer session for the RFQ on June 3 at 10 a.m. DPD recommends attendance but does not require it. Responses to the RFQ are due on June 21, 2021 at 5 p.m. EST. The City will issue the subsequent RFP in mid-summer.

The RFQ contains complete information about deadlines and requirements.

The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia has issued the RFQ on behalf of the City of Philadelphia, the Department of Planning and Development, and the Philadelphia Historical Commission.