The Lazaretto Outreach Project: Immigration, Epidemics, and Quarantine in American History
Project Description

This intervention builds on an existing historic preservation project and uses it to confront visitors (both virtual and in-person) with the ground-level realities of immigration, epidemics, and quarantine in the history of Philadelphia and its region. This confrontation will be open-ended, multi-modal, creative, and challenging; it is intended to generate reflection and discussion about immigration and public health policy today. Scholarly and arts-based advocacy will be part of the Lazaretto outreach project, but so too will recreation and entertainment. All are welcome, and constructive intervention does not preclude enjoyment.

A brief overview of the existing historic preservation/interpretation project: The Lazaretto historic site, which has been called “the original Ellis Island,” is a Philadelphia treasure that tells the story of the first century of the United States’ efforts to protect public health without impeding commerce or immigration. The site combines unmatched historical significance with architectural beauty and a striking riverfront setting. The preservation team has begun to restore the Lazaretto buildings and grounds in order to create a dynamic destination where locals and visitors alike can encounter the importance of immigration and public health in the American experience. Recreation and river access will serve as a gateway allowing visitors from diverse communities to discover the site.

Current plans for the restored site envision interactive exhibits and installations both permanent and temporary, accompanied by research resources and enlivened by periodic artistic events and public forums on immigration and public health in the twenty-first century. The site will also incorporate community meeting space and perhaps a seasonal café/beer garden into the everyday life of the Lazaretto, making the site a frequent destination for a diverse array of visitors. Tinicum Township, which owns the property, has already committed considerable resources to the project, and its municipal offices now occupy a portion of the Main Building.

Translational Perspective

The goal for this project is to allow the humanities, including history, storytelling, visual arts, and performing arts, to catalyze reflection and discussion about the values, priorities, and interests that have informed immigration and public health policy and outcomes, both in the past and in the present. The site aims to promote open-ended reflection and discussion that will in turn fuel advocacy and further research, with the goal of formulating policies and facilitating outcomes that promote community health and empowerment.

Humanities Influences
Contact Infomation: First name
Contact Information: Last name
Contact Information: Position title
Associate Professor of History & Sociology of Science
Contact Information: Institutional affiliation
University of Pennsylvania
Contact Information: Email address
dbarnes [at]

Tinicum Township, Pennsylvania, USA