Nerd Nite No. 53: Celebrating Archives Month Philly!

Hey Nerds!

We’ve planned October’s Nerd Nite with the fine folks that organize another nerdy celebration: Archives Month Philly. What is that, you ask? Archives Month Philly is a chance to learn more about the rich history of Philadelphia, to toast the important work archives are doing, and to have a good time with interesting people. There are all kinds of archives-themed events going on in October to bring greater awareness to the collections in Philadelphia, but, um, obviously Nerd Nite’s will be the best.

So what do we have planned?

Lisa Berry Drago will present “You’ve Got Some Gall: Early Modern Inks and Pigments”

So, you’re a monk in the fourteenth century, and you want to copy a few pages of your favorite hymnal. No problem! First, you catch a goat. Then you skin a goat. Then you find some gall nuts on an oak tree, and some good red wine… okay, you get the idea. Writing and book-making were highly specialized arts requiring patience and expertise. This Nerd Nite, you’ll learn about the process of making manuscripts, and even get to try your hand at writing with real iron-gall ink and feather quills.

About Lisa: Elisabeth Berry Drago is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Delaware, specializing in the 17th-century Netherlands. Her dissertation centers on the painter Thomas Wijck (1616–1677), whose pictures of alchemists in the laboratory offer new perspectives on early modern science and artistry. She received her MA in art history from Temple University in 2010 and holds a BA in fine arts from SUNY, Fredonia. In her free time she enjoys volunteering with the Fleisher Art Memorial and the Free Library of Philadelphia, teaching youth workshops in painting and drawing, comics, and picture-book illustration.

Tara O’Brien will discuss the history of cursive writing. Maybe we can get her take on the importance of teaching penmanship in Philly public schools?

And Matt Herbison will talk about “She-Doctors and Shameless Non-Blushers: Women Physicians in the US”

Philly has always been a big medical school town, including the Female Medical College of PA, the first med school for women in the world, founded in 1850 by Quakers (naturally).  Women working outside their accepted sphere of home and family and getting elbows-deep into unwomanly medical situations was far from universally accepted – in fact, over 160 years later, the gender imbalance for doctors is still significant.  To do up Archives Month the way it deserves, we’ll get our own hands dirty with this turbulent history and uncover juicy original documents that reveal the struggles these women faced when they deigned to enter the men’s world of science and medicine.

About Matt: Matt is an archivist at the Drexel Med School, working with researchers and students to dig into the history of women in medicine and the history of homeopathy in the US.  His hobbies are snacks and transit.  He is unwilling to converse about a broad range of topics.

And what else? Music by local singer-songwriter Lainey Quinn!


When: Wednesday, October 7

What time: Doors open at 4pm. Show starts at 7:30pm

How much: $5 cover gets you admission plus happy hour specials all night

Where: Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125

Be there and be square!

Nerd Nite Philly

Nerd Nite No. 52: Pickling! Clinical Trials! Sabermetrics!

Greetings Nerds! Are you ready for back-to-school time? Yea neither are we. But, this just means we must muster through with some good beers, friendly nerds, and some old-fashioned learning.

What’s up for Nerd Nite No. 52? Well…

Speakers include:

Amanda Feifer from Phickle talking the science and art of pickling

Dr. Ralph Riviello, “The Status of Status: Emergency Seizure Research”

When you are having a seizure how can you give consent to join a research study? Which medicine works best to stop seizures when the first line medicines have failed? Find out about the FDA rules for emergency research and a new seizure study starting this fall in many Philadelphia hospitals.


Josh Godick, “Sabermetrics: The statistical analysis of baseball”

If you’re a casual fan of baseball (or even if you aren’t!), you likely know that there are a lot of numbers in the game. From batting average to ERA, the language of baseball is all about the numbers. Sabermetrics attempts to make that language more precise by applying statistical analysis and the scientific method. Professional teams (even the Phillies) are hiring economists, mathematicians, statisticians, and programmers to evaluate players on the field. Come learn about some of the “rock stars” in sabermetrics, what OPS and defense-independent-pitching mean, and how teams are using this information to get better.

Plus Music by Nardo Lilly!


When: Wednesday, September 2

What time: Doors open at 4pm. Show starts at 7:30pm

How much: $5 cover gets you admission plus happy hour specials all night

Where: Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125

Be there and be square!

Nerd Nite Philly

Nerd Nite No. 51: Street Art! Mulberry Paper! Star Wars Maps! Plus music by Emily Mineo

Hey gang! Thanks for all of you that came out for our 5 Year Party! WE had a great time, and hopefully you did too.

Now, a look to the future! And by future, we mean August Nerd Nite. We have a great group of speakers– many of whom have come to Nerd Nite on a regular basis– and we’re happy to hand them the mic for the first time.

Lindsay Bates,  “Bombing, Tagging, Writing: Why Graffiti and Street Art are More than Vandalism”

A first look upon a well-contrived piece of graffiti or street art may inspire feelings of surprise, delight, and amusement, but the connection between graffiti and cultural heritage might be more difficult to perceive. Conventionally, graffiti was synonymous with vandalism, associated with a subculture that needed to be extinguished immediately. However, with the works of such artists as Basquiat, Keith Haring, Banksy, Steve Powers, and the like, graffiti began to be recognized as something more than crime – something with far more value, something that could reach beyond the walls of a gallery. Indeed, this subculture has since proliferated exponentially, and with its popularity a closer connection to heritage becomes more apparent. Though it may be a more radical and alternative way of creating heritage, its increasing recognition suggests that such cultural values are clearly demonstrated.

Bio: Lindsay Bates holds a BS in Architecture from Catholic University, and a MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.  She has been a graffiti and street art enthusiast since visiting Barcelona in 2005, and is especially passionate about how art can be a catalyst for change in our communities.


Nicole Donnelly, “Papermaking with a Philadelphia Invasive”

Nicole is an artist & papermaker, and for the last few years, she has been harvesting Philadelphia’s paper mulberry tree (broussonetia papyrifera) from the abandoned piers in the Delaware River. This plant probably looks familiar to you, and that’s because it’s a non-native, aggressive / invasive plant, and it grows all over the city, especially along the highways and rivers, and it can actually thrive in very poor soil (like so many of our invasive plants, a.k.a. weeds). However, this plant has been used for thousands of years to make paper, and is the traditional fiber used for paper in China, Japan & Korea (what is commonly, and mistakenly, referred to as ‘rice paper’, and in the art store is called ‘mulberry paper’). This kind of papermaking is a SUSTAINABLE practice (because the plant is perennial and regenerates the branches that are cut each season).

Bio: Nicole Donnelly is a papermaker, visual artist, and independent teacher based in Philadelphia, PA. She fell in love with handmade paper and its artistic possibilities while studying with Timothy Barrett at the University of Iowa (2008­-09), who literally wrote the book on Japanese hand papermaking. Donnelly is a co-­organizer of the Hand Papermaking Community Documentation project; the founder of paperTHINKtank, a papermaking studio in Philadelphia; a board member of The Soapbox Independent Publishing Center in West Philly; and the President of the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA), 2015­-17. Her artwork is focused on the environmentally sustainable possibilities and beauty of handmade paper.


Henry Bernberg, “Mapping the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Using Raster Channelization Techniques to Build a Hyperspace Network for the Star Wars Galaxy”

Ever wondered how the Imperial Fleet gets around the Galaxy Far, Far Away while avoiding all those black holes and supernovas? Or how the Millennium Falcon could make it from Hoth to Bespin without a working hyperdrive? Learn about how the galaxy was mapped, who mapped it, and how advanced spatial analysis techniques can be applied to filling in the gaps between planetary clusters and the hyperspace lanes that connect them.

Bio: Henry is a sci-fi and mapping nerd living in Philly and specializes in geographic information systems analysis. He holds degrees in urban spatial analytics, historic preservation, architectural studies, and anthropology; has worked on archival and mapping projects projects at The Penn Museum, Azavea, and the Kansas Geological Survey; and worked on archaeological digs in Belize and Turkey.


Music by local artist Emily Mineo!


When: Wednesday, August5

What time: Doors open at 4pm. Show starts at 7:30pm

How much: $5 cover gets you admission plus happy hour specials all night

Where: Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125

Be there and be square!

Nerd Nite Philly

Nerd Nite Philly Turns 5!

Yo Nerds! The time is finally here–our 5 Year Celebration in Philadelphia.

We’re mixing things up and hosting the evening’s festivities at Johnny Brenda’s (after party at Frankford Hall!)

Now, the details:

The who: 6 All Star Speakers, 2 Local Nerdy Entertainers, and your friendly Nerd Nite Bosses
The what: 6+ nerdy talks and performances from some of our favorite Philadelphia nerds, Nerd Nite Philly swag, and most importantly, a party atmosphere to celebrate all the Philly nerds that have made our monthly events possible
The when: Thursday, July 9, 2015
The where: Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 Frankford Ave.
The how much: $10 cover, get your tickets here

Jill Weber, “The Kunga: Solving the Riddle of this Royal Steed”
Ancient authors wrote about the Kunga – a prized animal that pulled the chariots of kings and gods – in the 3rd millenium BC. But, was this donkey x wild half-ass hybrid real, or just propaganda for the State? Here, I recount my pusuit of this animal across the Syrian wilderness and through the maze of academic intrigue.

Simon Joseph, “Getting Steamy in Philadelphia”
The history of steam power in America is linked strongly with Philadelphia. By talking about four boats (three launched and the fourth now anchored in Philly) and one ill-fated water tower, Simon will hopefully cover some of the major advances in the technology. Finally, as this is a departure from his normal vexillological fare, Simon will try to keep the fire alive by giving this presentation entirely in semaphore. (This may be a lie.)

Janet Monge,  “Hemlock, Cholera and Marijuana: Getting it all Wrong in Forensic Anthropology”
Case studies of prehistoric, historic and modern errors in the reconstruction of events surrounding death of 11 people. From the ancient Middle East to the suburbs of Philadelphia, history has painted a very different picture of the very real events of human violence against other humans. Forensic anthropologists get it right (and wrong sometimes) telling the stories from the very real bones left behind.

Mike Bair, “Antarctica, It’s Weirder than You”
A brief exploration of Antarctica and the people who work there…. No need to listen. I’m bringing pictures.

Alexis Jeffcoat, “True Love Never Dies: Victorians, Burials, and the State of Amour”
The woman who left behind her heart, the ashes that were pulverized to make room for two souls; the pomp and circumstance of arctic explorer’s burial with the sad state of his lover in a pauper’s grave. These are love stories. And hate stories, too. Lust, loathing, passion, devotion; all of it follows us to the grave. Be it all-consuming, romantic or even scandalous; love does not end with death and no one was surer of that than our Victorian predecessors. Sit back, grab a drink, and snuggle up: we’re about to gossip like its 1872. The dresses were long, the love was torrid and the burials? Dramatic.

Oh and also, Ben Leach, revisiting some of his best talks and discussing the things he just couldn’t squeeze into 20 minutes before.
And Trivia, free swag, poetic musings by F. Omar Telan, and more!

Nerd Nite No. 50: Nerd Nite Teams Up with the APS!

Hey Nerds! We’re at a bit of a milestone here in Philly– the 50th edition of nerd-based entertainment in the city of brotherly love! How awesome is that? We’re celebrating in two ways: first, on July 1 we’ll be presenting a series of talks in conjunction with the American Philosophical Society and, second, on July 9 we’ll be celebrating 5 YEARS in Philly with a party. We hope to see you at both!

So what’s up for July 1?


Bernard Brown, “Spermataphores, Orgies, and Chin Grinding”

Philly herper Bernard Brown will explore the hot cold-blooded sex lives of our local salamanders, including the spring ‘breeding aggregations’ of spotted salamanders, newt leg locks, and the seductive dance of the diminutive redback salamander.

About Bernard: Bernard Brown has been herping Philadelphia for over 10 years. He has written about natural history topics for Grid Magazine, is the Philadelphia County Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey (PARS), and co-hosts the Urban Wildlife podcast.


Jane Boyd, “Bears in the Backyard, Plants in the Attic: Collecting at the American Philosophical Society”

Before Philadelphia was chock-full of museums and libraries, there was a rectangular redbrick building next to Independence Hall where all the cool stuff went. During the late 1700s and early 1800s, people all over the country sent strange and interesting things to the “ingenious and curious men” at the American Philosophical Society. Find out about Thomas Jefferson’s live grizzly bears, Lewis and Clark’s pressed plant specimens, Charles Willson Peale’s mastodon skeleton, and other remarkable items that filled Philosophical Hall.

About Jane: Dr. Jane E. Boyd gets around town as an independent curator and museum consultant specializing in interdisciplinary exhibitions and projects, on topics ranging from natural history to Civil War medicine to chemistry sets. She has worked for the APS Museum and Library, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Mütter Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science. More on her website at


Steve Alt, “So You Think You Know Plants…”

…But you probably don’t, at least not about their origins. While certain founders were hard at work in the business of creating a country, other colonists were exploring the natural history of the New World. With thousands of new species to investigate and a substantial market in the import and export of exotic plants, there was a lot of green to be made in the greenhouse. This talk will explore the world of agriculture and horticulture in the 18th century.

About Steve: Steve Alt started farming in Plainsboro, NJ when he was just a wee lad. When the malls came to cover the strawberry and potato fields of NJ, Steve moved to botanical gardens and eventually trained in horticulture at the Morris Arboretum. He has a BA in history from the University of Pennsylvania, serves as a museum guide at the American Philosophical Society Museum, and has been in the landscaping and horticulture business in Chestnut Hill for 16 years.


What else can you expect? Lauren Duguid is going to show us all that you can play some pretty sweet music using a saw!


When: Wednesday, July 1

What time: Doors open at 4pm. Show starts at 7:30pm

How much: $5 cover gets you admission plus happy hour specials all night

Where: Frankford Hall, 1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125


Be there and be square!

Nerd Nite Philly