Alumnae News & Highlights

Public historian Page Talbott has some major accomplishments under her belt: overseeing the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, serving as chief curator for an international traveling exhibition, helping curate the renovation of a major Philadelphia museum and being named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. But unlike other historians, who focus primarily on tying specific events to significant dates, Page is a specialist in material culture – “essentially, the stories behind the stuff we surround ourselves with,” she says. “It’s a way of looking at the world through the lens of what people accumulate. Immersing yourself in what life was like in every period.”

An art history major at Wellesley, Page holds advanced degrees (two Masters and a Ph.D.) in Material Culture and American Civilization from the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania. This mother of four grown children and wife of 43 years began her career “working with small historic sites,” she says, “to determine how places would have been furnished as a way of telling the stories of the people who lived there.” She went on to serve as Associate Director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, Chief Curator for an exhibition commemorating the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth, and content creator for the Benjamin Franklin Museum at Franklin Court. Most recently she served as President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and, now, a Senior Fellow in Drexel University’s Center for Cultural Partnerships.

A typical week in Page’s life today could involve helping sort through a 100,000-item historical collection for the city of Philadelphia, helping develop a strategic plan for a vibrant and diverse community arts center that’s looking for new ways to generate revenue, and partnering with an architectural firm to create an interpretive, on-site history exhibit for a farmer’s market celebrating its 125th anniversary.

There are always moments of note throughout an accomplished career; Page remembers with special fondness the way she helped arrange the Benjamin Franklin Museum’s exhibits based on his personality instead of a rigid timeline. “It’s a humanizing way of looking at history,” she says. “We wanted people to not see Franklin as a super luminary, but as a real person.” She also enjoys “helping people learn about history in a way that’s engaging and relates to their own world” and hopes that, by making great historic figures more attainable, “people can allow themselves to think more broadly and not be so fixated on what they already know.”

Looking back on her time at HB, which spanned 7th through 12th grades, Page says the school provided some “very stiff competition academically,” but also lifelong friends. She also says the school instilled in her the notion that “I was able to do whatever I wanted to do if I worked hard enough to get it.” Certainly, her distinguished career is evidence of that.

Authored by Lisa Murtha ’88

  • Distinguished Alumnae Award