Using Music to Lift Cliveden’s “Liberty To Go To See”

By Priya Chhaya posted 08-07-2018 14:28


Filmed and produced by Shannon Lawrence

In 2014 David Young, then the executive director of Cliveden, wrote about a new play that explored the life of the enslaved and free people that had once lived at this Germantown Avenue home in Philadelphia. Developed by the staff of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights, “Liberty To Go To See” presented Cliveden—a National Historic Landmark site and one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s historic sites—with a unique opportunity to tell the story of all who lived there. In June 2018, supported in part by the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Haley Foundation, the production returned to Cliveden for a limited release.


The narrator of Liberty to Go to See" stands on the front steps of Cliveden during a scene in the play. | Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

The difference? The play was now enhanced with music. So much of our knowledge of the past depends on the written word, coming from letters, diaries, inventories, and other documents. But sometimes truly understanding the past requires us to connect with it on a deeper, emotional level. “Liberty To Go To See” and its music can enhance our understanding of the events that took place at Cliveden by establishing tone and emotion.

In this video, the cast, production team, and musicians of the play talk about how “music allows us to ‘get’ [history] in a full and complete way.”

If you want to learn more about the role intangible heritage plays in historic preservation, register for PastForward 2018.  If you are participating in the PastForward Challenge (Gamification) for points and prizes, please enter the following passcode for the "Blog Post: Cliveden" challenge: CLDN.

For more about "Liberty To Go To See," check out this recent story on

Priya Chhaya is the associate director of publications and programs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Shannon Lawrence is a Washington, D.C., area–based producer and filmmaker.


Get Connected

Discuss this blog post and more on Forum’s new online community. Sign up now.