The Delaware River flows through Philadelphia’s complex past and present social fabric. Its many tributaries run beneath our feet, under highways and neighborhoods, going largely unnoticed but still ever-present.
As early as 1676, ships were being built across the street from this exhibition. These ships sailed on what was known as the Poutaxat, Mochijirickhickon, and Lenapewihittuck, followed by the South River and Swedish River, before becoming known as the Delaware River. The Delaware was first used by the Lenni Lenape people for hunting and fishing. These ships were later used to transport both free and enslaved people to distinctly different destinies. The waterfront envisioned by William Penn as a “Greene Country Towne” was later the birthplace of the United States Navy and was used for the importation of products ranging from cocoa beans to crude oil. These vessels made way for Philadelphia to become the “Workshop of the World” in the United States, which is still visible today along the waterfront.
Inspired by the nuanced and complex history of the Delaware River in the 1700s, Biangle Studio created Ghost Ship, a site-specific, three-dimensional light and water-based public art installation. The 18th-century ship appeared on the Philadelphia Waterfront for the month of October to shine a light on the shared history of the Delaware River and reflect on its role in shaping Philadelphia today.
As viewers travel through the exhibition, they access a narrative audio tour offering a view into the historical landscape of the Delaware River. Guided by historians, artists, and archaeologists, the exhibition intends to evoke memory and engage in a multicultural and multigenerational conversation about the past, present, and future of Philadelphia and its Delaware River Waterfront.