Philadelphia, PA, Onsite Seminar (460.610.92)

Monday, July 31 — Friday, August 11, 2017

  • 14 students minimum to run this seminar
  • Registration runs March 20 – April 20, 2017 

Course Description

Storytelling Bootcamp

What can we learn from opera, Shakespeare, La La Land, Instagram, or even your accountant’s spreadsheet? Regardless of expertise or title, this experiential, fast-paced exploration of storytelling will challenge seminar participants to see his or her work in the museum field through a storytelling lens.

Starting with an artifact, informed by your personal experience and educational pursuits, the Storytelling Bootcamp functions as a springboard for seminar students to leap into the heart of the narrative to find his or her unique approach to the art and science of telling a good story.

Philadelphia is rich with hidden cultural treasures and iconic block-buster institutions. Seminar students will visit a range of museums to observe and reflect on the museum’s ever-evolving role as steward, conservator and leader in cultural resource planning, interpretation and design. Through daily activities in a variety of museums, observations of visitors, a series of guest speakers and class sessions, seminar students will begin to assess and expand his or her relationship to narrative as a concept and a tool. Conversations with a diverse selection of museum professionals, artists, designers and media producers will provide a platform for discussing best practices in storytelling across the museum landscape including providing opportunities for the visitor to tell his or her own story (as an essential aspect of the contemporary museum experience) through participatory learning manifestations and user generated content.

Seminar Project

The goal of the two-week intensive seminar is to engage the voice of the river through a storytelling format made up of interview excerpts, original video footage, soundscape and spoken words.

Working with the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum as our co-collaborator and host, the class will work in groups to create “Dispatches from the Delaware River” video series. These two- to three-minute video vignettes will use an artifact from the ISM’s collection as a starting point to explore the sights, sounds, people, histories and happenings of an ever-evolving riverscape.

The museum hopes to use these vignettes in a developing series that will link the stories of Philadelphia’s two rivers (the Delaware and the Schuylkill) along the Schuylkill River Trail.  An estimated one million people use Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River Trail annually –a 250- mile regional bike and pedestrian trail network known as the Circuit. This path includes a 130-mile long network of historic and cultural attractions that are inherently tied to the river where history, education, culture and action seamlessly intersect. When completed, the Circuit will extend to 750 miles.

During the course, each group of four people will work together to:

  1. Establish project goals and indicators of success;
  2. Conduct research;
  3. Storyboard narratives and scripts;
  4. Work with ISM Chief Curator, Craig Bruns, to identify and collect source material to explore the life and times of the selected artifact;
  5. Present ideas to peers and the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum;
  6. Work with a professional team of media producers to record interviews, shoot video footage, ambient sounds and other audio content;
  7. Direct media producers to edit and finalize each team’s video vignette.

Presentations and/or performances of each project will take place on the last day of the seminar. Additionally, each seminar participant will keep a daily log reflecting on the work and experiences of the day in the form of a digital blog.

The Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum

Founded in 1960 as the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Independence Seaport Museum ( is the region’s primary repository of art, artifacts and archival materials documenting the diverse maritime history of the Greater Delaware Valley, and the history of the Port of Philadelphia and the other major urban ports of the Delaware River.

The Museum was incorporated in 1961 and began serving the public with small exhibitions and through the assemblage of a library, archival materials and collections. In 1974 the Museum moved to larger quarters within the Independence Park Historic District. At the same time, the Museum opened the Workshop on the Water – a fully operational boat building facility used for display and teaching purposes – on Penn’s Landing, which not only established a strong institutional waterfront presence, but also became an anchor attraction for the revitalization of the historic waterfront area.

A new location on Penn’s Landing became economically viable when the City of Philadelphia’s Port of History building became available. A $15 million renovation and expansion on the building began in January 1994, and the new facility with increased exhibition, educational, library and storage/curatorial space and an incorporated Workshop on the Water opened to the public in July 1995, renamed as Independence Seaport Museum. In January 1996, the Museum assumed the responsibility for Olympia, Admiral Dewey’s famed flagship during his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, and the World War II submarine, Becuna, both of which are National Historic Landmarks.

Today, the Independence Seaport Museum is an anchor attraction on Penn’s Landing, attracting visitors to experience both Philadelphia’s heritage and current waterfront. The Museum educates area youth groups through interactive programs in its boat shop, presents changing exhibits in its galleries and hosts visiting ships and events year-round.


  • The seminar will make formal visits to a range of different types of museums throughout Philadelphia spanning all disciplines and institutional sizes.

Philadelphia is a walking city so please wear comfortable shoes. Students must purchase a student membership to the American Association of Museums.

  • Participation is required. Students will be expected to actively participate in daily discussions, and keep a daily digital reflection journal.
  • In addition to participation in the final presentation on the last day of the seminar, students will be asked to submit a final reflection paper about their Philadelphia experience. Each group will also be required to submit a version of their project in a digital format on the final day of the seminar.
  • Students are expected to review museum websites for educational materials and collection information before site visits.
  • If you have a laptop (PC or Mac), a tablet and/or a smartphone please bring everything with you.

Course Objectives

As a result of participating in this seminar, students will:

  • Explore the basics of storytelling in ways they can apply in their own work places, to their own projects. They will go beyond the current rhetoric and learn how stories can be found in any setting;
  • Define and apply a spectrum of approaches and strategies employed by museums to engage visitors with their story;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the exhibition process as a collaborative and iterative production involving an interdisciplinary team or experts;
  • Become more adept at allowing good ideas to be questioned, tested and transformed into great ones;
  • Use creative and critical thinking skills in the creation of a narrative;
  • Discuss the concept and application of object-based learning as it applies to exhibition development;
  • Use the techniques of media documentation, production, and presentation;
  • Identify the characteristics, benefits and challenges of a group collaborative approach to a project.
  • Examine and discuss the diverse ways that museums encourage interactivity and meet the various needs and expectations of their current and potential visitors to engage with their collection and mission;
  • Practice observation, reflection and professional presentation skills in critiquing and offering recommendations to peers and colleagues

Preliminary list of museums and facilities

The Rosenbach Museum and Library; The Wagner Free Institute; The Fairmount Water Works; National Museum of American Jewish History; The Barnes Foundation; The American Philosophical Society Museum; The National Constitution Center Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University; The; Institute of Contemporary Art; Asian Arts Initiative; Philadelphia Museum of Arts

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; The Penn Museum; Eastern State Penitentiary; Independence Hall; Independence Seaport Museum; Bartrams Garden 

Academic Requirements

Students must have completed a minimum of two courses in the program to register for this class. One of these courses must be 460.601 or 460.602. 

Seminar Leader

The instructor for the Philadelphia, PA seminar is Victoria Prizzia, founder of Habithèque Inc., an established business entity representing nearly twenty years of professional work in the field of interpretive planning and design. Victoria has spent her entire career engaged in the cultural and educational interests of the non-profit and commercial sectors. Her diverse experiences and educational pursuits, including a Master of Arts in education and Master of Fine Arts in interpretive planning and design, have provided a solid foundation for analytical thinking and on-the-fly problem solving. Her network of contacts within museums and consulting firms spans the country. Victoria has been teaching graduate and undergraduate classes and serving as a thesis advisor since 2005 using curricula that she has continued to develop and refine. Victoria led the JHU Philadelphia seminar in 2014. You can contact her at 

Time Commitment

Prepare to be completely “immersed” during the entire two-week period! Students will be busy from 9:30am– 5:00 pm each day, with some evenings and weekend work also required. Do not schedule activities unrelated to the seminar during these two weeks (including the weekend) until the syllabus becomes available. Note: There will be some preparatory work for this seminar to be sure everyone is familiar with the software being used. 

Significant Others

Friends or partners may accompany students to Philadelphia, PA and may share hotel/dorm rooms. However, they are NOT allowed in class or on field trips. 


Students are responsible for making their own accommodations. The closest hotels to the ISM are:

You are, of course, free to find your own accommodations but we recommend that you stay close to the center of the city for ease of travel to and from classes.

Dress Code

Informal business attire on the days we visit museums; casual at other times. 

Getting around town

We will walk to many of our field trips. Cabs and/or the local bus system will also be options.

Travel Information

Please see the Advanced Academic Student Travel page for information about waiver, liability, and emergency contact forms, and travel and health insurance.

Waiver Forms

Students traveling to Philadelphia must fill out the following forms by March 10:

  1. Student field trip release and waiver of liability form.
  2. Emergency contact form.

Seminar Cost

The cost of the Onsite Seminar course is the normal tuition rate for one class in the Museum Studies Program, which is approximately $4085. There is an additional $350 field trip fee for the Berlin seminar.

Students are responsible for travel to and from the location, accommodations, and meals, as well as any local subway or bus fares. Note: Tuition rates for this course are estimated. Rates are subject to change and are subject to Board of Trustees approval.


Students will register for this course (460.610.92) in ISIS. This course needs 14 students to run. (The maximum number of students is 20.)

This course has a non-refundable $300 fee. If you drop this course prior to March 10, you will be refunded the tuition only. If you drop this course after March 10, there will be no refund. Tuition may not appear immediately on your billing statement but the previously stated refund information still applies.

Please contact the Registration office if you need to drop this course. You cannot drop this course online, you must contact the Registration office at if you wish to drop.

Important Dates
March 20, 2017 Registration opens
April 20, 2017 Last day to register, emergency contact information due, waiver form due
July 31, 2017 Seminar begins