AtoZ Impact Report

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Faith & Peace by Keisha Whatley

Dear Friends, I can remember the excitement and anticipation infusing the Museum in days before America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far (A to Z) opened at Please Touch Museum. Two years in the planning, this special exhibit served as our first major project to address contemporary social issues and represent Philadelphia’s culturally diverse populations. Our team worked diligently to engage cultural partners, creating unique content and programming for A to Z, which reflected the diversity of the families and communities we serve. It was an ambitious effort that required creativity, thoughtfulness and agility. It also required a deep respect for the Muslim community, a culture and faith community, too often misunderstood. To be in the Museum in the first days of the exhibit’s opening was powerful and moving. As we watched families of different faiths and ethnicities tour A to Z – and as we overheard the conversations that the exhibit prompted– it quickly became clear that this was a moment of transformation for Please Touch Museum. In developing an engaging space in which children and families could come to understand cultures, we were not only promoting acceptance – we were creating a place of acceptance itself. And perhaps, there is no greater affirmation of that achievement than in the words of Petra Wilson, a mother of four from West Oak Lane, who when speaking to The Philadelphia Inquirer about A to Z, said, “I see myself here. I see my family and my community here.” That was the power of this exhibit – and it is the continued power of this Museum. Please Touch Museum will continue to create thought-provoking opportunities for children and families to explore diverse cultures, communities and individuals. A to Z was a significant milestone in that important work but rest assured, there is much more to come. Yours in Play,

Patricia D. Wellenbach President & CEO Please Touch Museum



America to Zanzibar Community Impact: By The Numbers



Total Visitors for A to Z

School and Community Groups visited A to Z



One-Day Museum attendance record on Eid Community Day

School Children visited A to Z



Visitors for A to Z Community Days

Attended “Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie”



A Traveling National Exhibit Becomes Philadelphia’s Own Originated at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, A to Z encouraged children to have a visual, auditory and tactile experience to learn about Muslim life and culture. But as this vibrant exhibit traveled here, Please Touch Museum was committed to enhancing it in ways that would be distinctive to Philadelphia. In a city with more than 50 Masjids – and in which nearly 200,000 citizens identify as Muslim – A to Z not only reflected Muslim culture from a global perspective but also, highlighted the local traditions that make this faithful culture so rich and dynamic.

“Being a Muslim family, it gave us a feeling of belonging in the community.” – PTM Visitor Comment We added ancient artifacts and rare books, including a Qur’an, from The Rosenbach, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to the exhibit, allowing children and adults to see these beautiful, historic pieces and texts up-close.



We produced and performed a play based on the popular children’s book, “Bashirah and The Amazing Bean Pie,” which celebrates African American Muslim culture and friendship. With sold-out runs in February and May, families fell in love with Bashirah and her bean pies - literally! Our café could scarcely keep bean pies in stock.

Hope: Daughter, by Keisha Whatley

We commissioned original works of art that show the beauty of family life within the Muslim faith and culture. Named Artists-in-Residence for A to Z, Keisha Whatley and Bariq Cobbs, created exquisite new art and both spent time in our Creative Arts Studio sharing their talents.

Love Supreme, by Bariq Cobbs



We created a map of Philadelphia’s Masjids, which was especially popular among students who marveled about how close a Masjid was to their own schools and homes. In addition, Please Touch Museum invested in the 3D technology to add a local Philadelphia Masjid to “Mosques Around the World,” which will remain part of the exhibit as it travels the nation.

We opened a Prayer Room that allowed our Muslim guests to practice Salah. It was also open to guests of all faiths as a place of quiet reflection. This room became an unexpected centerpiece for this powerful learning experience among children and adults alike.



A to Z arrived in Philadelphia at an important moment of conversation within the city and the nation. Its innovative execution at PTM generated terrific media coverage and social engagement throughout its run, including two major features in The Philadelphia Inquirer and a full-page feature in Essence magazine (pictured here) 42 Media Placements In Print, Broadcast, Radio and Online Outlets 16.2 Million Broadcast Impressions $192,000 In Broadcast Advertising Value



Capturing the Media’s Attention

alexholleytv Did you know there’s an estimated 200,000 + Muslims living in the Philadelphia area? The @pleasetouchmuseum’s new exhibit “America to Zanzibar” highlights Muslim cultures in the area and around the world! It truly was an interactive learning experience. # AlexAroundTown

Ipshita @ipshita_ahsan Spent #4thOfJuly in Philadelphia, the city where the US Declaration of Independence & Constitution were adopted. Took daughter to the Please Touch Museum, where they’re having an exhibit titled America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near & Far. Celebrating #diversity & #acceptance

Jim Kenney @PhillyMayor The brand new America to Zanzibar exhibit at the Please Touch Museum showcases the vibrant culture of our Muslim communities. Come see this beautiful exhibit for yourself. It’s important that artwork reflects the diverse of our city.

Philadelphia CVB @discoverPHL TODAY: Bring your kids to @PleaseTouch for a special #AmericaToZanzibar Family Festival which celebrates Muslim cultures with live dance performances, cookig demonstrations, story times, and more.

Additional media coverage by:



Voices of Our Visitors “Representation Matters!”

– PTM Visitor Comment

As part of A to Z, Please Touch Museum engaged in a robust research effort to understand the impact of this exhibit on the families who visited. Through quantitative and qualitative research, including 6 focus groups with Museum Members, non-Members and educators of all faiths, we discovered that A to Z helped start many new and important conversations. Here’s what we heard.

82% of respondents affirmed that the exhibit helped them learn about their world.

“This exhibit is phenomenal, and it was a great honor to experience it with my children, and to see such a diverse group of people (both Muslim and non-Muslim) exploring the exhibit with their spouses and children and schools with open minds and hearts. Words cannot express how [very] much I appreciate what PTM has done for, with, and in recognition of the Muslim community.”



More than half of respondents said that the exhibit: • Introduced their family to “new places and new people.” • Helped them gain a new awareness of the diversity of Muslim cultures globally.

“When visiting the prayer room, my family and I took off our shoes and sat quietly in the back. At that time, there was a family in the room praying. Having grown up a Christian, we knew very little about the what we should be doing and whether we belonged. When all of a sudden, my 6-year-old left us and went over to the praying family. He immediately started to mirror this family’s movements and words. He jumped right in, and the mother put her arm around my son and welcomed him in. While me and my wife sat back and didn’t know what to do, we were overwhelmed by how beautiful it is to see our baby lead us. Where we had fears, and reservations, he had none.”


of respondents expressed that the exhibit has opened their eyes to Philadelphia’s own diversity.

Nearly 1 in 5 of every respondent said that the exhibit has made them more likely to seek out new cultural opportunities in their community.



A Reflection from Our Corporate Partners Dear Friends of Please Touch Museum, When America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far (A to Z) arrived at Please Touch Museum in February 2019, we had high expectations. We wanted this exhibit to cultivate conversation among families around different faiths and cultures. We hoped that it would provide children with a multi-sensory experience in engaging in Muslim life – at home and around the world. We believed that it could capture the imaginations of young and old alike by teaching about the shared values of peace, love and respect within Muslim culture. What happened far exceeded our expectations. A to Z forever changed this Museum in an important, thought-provoking way. Through its run, the Museum highlighted its extraordinary ability to create unique and culturally relevant experiences that encourage children, parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers to explore challenging questions, combat fears of the unknown and embrace inclusivity. As a respected national Imam shared, “A to Z has done more for Muslim American relations in this city than anything in the past 30 years.” This is the true legacy of A to Z. Bank of America and PECO, with the Exelon Foundation, are proud to have helped provide even greater access to this transformative exhibit through our Community Days when more than 10,000 children and their families enjoyed A to Z, free-of-charge. But impact cannot simply be measured in attendance figures. It is in the dialogue that the exhibit created; the community relationships strengthened; and the opening of minds and hearts among young learners – and their families – of all faiths and cultures. While America to Zanzibar: Muslim Culture Near and Far has departed Philadelphia, we believe its powerful impact will be part of our city for years to come. Sincerely,

Jim Dever

Philadelphia Market President Bank of America 11


Steve Solomon

President Exelon Foundation

Michael Innocenzo President & CEO PECO

Love: Son by Keisha Whatley PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM


On Behalf of the Community Dear Friends and Community Partners, When Please Touch Museum CEO Trish Wellenbach first approached me with the plans to bring America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far (A to Z) to the Museum, I was delighted and excited. Philadelphia is a city with more than 200,000 Muslims but there are still so many questions about our faith that abound. I believed that A to Z would empower children and families to bravely ask questions to create greater understanding and I quickly embraced the opportunity to help lead this important community conversation. As Project Coordinator for A to Z and the liaison to the Community Advisory Group, we brought together Muslims from different Masjids and communities across the city to provide guidance and insight. We talked about how we could share our religion, our lifestyle and our everyday existence in distinctive ways so that both children and adults might realize that we are more alike than we are different. We encouraged the Museum to continue its authentic and committed outreach to the Muslim community not just through the exhibit but after it as well. Through real partnership and open dialogue, Please Touch Museum delivered on its promise to bring families of all faiths and cultures together in a most respectful and welcoming way. A children’s museum was a wonderful place for this important conversation on Muslim faith and culture to start. Now, as A to Z moves on, it’s our responsibility to continue that conversation. In Friendship and Faith,

Salima Suswell CEO, Evolve Solutions Project Coordinator, Community Engagement and Partnership Development America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far



In Dakar by Bariq Cobbs PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM


“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” – Madam C.J. Walker Please Touch Museum is deeply grateful to its Board of Trustees for its support of this exhibit and the A to Z Community Advisory Group, which provided us with invaluable guidance and important insights through the duration of this special exhibit. The partnership of the following individuals made A to Z an extraordinary experience for Philadelphia.

Please Touch Museum Board of Trustees Chris Campbell Dana Connors William Crowder Geoff Gross Karen Griffith Gryga Kristen Han Benjamin L. Johnson, Chair Rahul Kothari Arianna Orpello Lewko Sara C. McGowan Angela Monaco

Emeritus Trustees Elizabeth B. Cartmell Sharon Coghlan, Esq. Anne Hamilton Portia Sperr Sally W. Stetson



Aisling Murphy Christopher Scarpa Kate Shields Steven A. Singh Richard (Dick) Tewksbury, Jr. Regina Tracy Kristen Vieira Traynor Shawn Tuli Victoria Wilson

Ex Officio Trustees Joshua M. Cohen

Chief of Staff, Office of Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. Representing The Honorable Darrell Clarke, Council President

Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell 190th Legislative District

Marcella Daniels

Chief of Staff, Office of Senator Vincent J. Hughes Representing The Honorable Vincent J. Hughes Member, Pennsylvania Senate

Kelly Lee

Chief Cultural Officer, Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy Representing The Honorable James Kenney, Mayor, City of Philadelphia

Tiffany W. Thurman Chief of Staff, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Representing Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

A to Z Community Advisory Group Salima Suswell Hazami Sayed Louis Massiah Abdul Rahim Muhammad Derick Dreher Dr. Fariha Khan Dr. Imam Quaiser Abdullah Dr. Jamal Elias Erinn Corbett-Wright Ivan Henderson

Jacob Bender Jamila Mapp Joe Shemtov Marjana NasrAllah Medina Rashid Rev. Nicole Diroff Shirin Karsan Omar Sabir Zakiyyah Muhammad–Durham

Special Thanks to Project Consultants: AZK Communications, Evolve Solutions, Meg Kane, Penn Behavioral Health Corporate Services, LLC and The Roz Group. PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM


Please Touch Museum wishes to thank its generous benefactors and supporters for helping us to bring America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far to Philadelphia.

with additional support from

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia Connelly Foundation Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far was developed by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.



Khamees by Bariq Cobbs

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