REACH Ambler

Resources for Education and Action for Community Health in Ambler (REACH Ambler) is a multidisciplinary project focused on the community history of Ambler, Pennsylvania, a town long affected by exposure to asbestos from the former Keasbey and Mattison asbestos plant. The project looks specifically at issues of community engagement, applied history, and risk communication.

Faculty and students from the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with community members from South and West Ambler, spent two years conducting a pilot study, in which they formed a network of community stakeholders interested in telling their stories. During this pilot work, researchers identified community concerns about risk and the subsequent effects on the identity of the Ambler community. The REACH Ambler project aims to engage those and other stakeholders through the exploration of their own histories, highlighting diverse experiences and exploring if and how various groups, from scientists to residents, understand their perception of risk differently.

The project will generate and provide access to the following materials:

  • A collection of oral histories with residents and key stakeholders, personal and public documents, and media sources.
  • A physical and online research collection of local historical documents, to properly preserve the materials collected and to provide the community access to those materials.
  • A portable physical exhibit that brings to life the rich stories and materials collected through REACH Ambler.
  • A parallel but separate online exhibit to provide a host of experiences that are more readily accessible online.
  • A theater piece produced by Act II Playhouse, drawing on the collected materials and oral histories as the foundation for the work.

REACH Ambler is a five-year project, aimed for completion in August 2017. This project is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and through a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award.

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