Time capsules are artifacts that at face value appear antithetical to the enterprise of history. Capturing frozen moments in time, time capsules flatten the dynamic and contingent nature of the past. Yet, as the contributors to Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City argue, the artifact is simply an entry point opening up larger questions of the complex relationships between past, present, and future. In this case, the “time capsule” is a single text, famed city planner Edmund Bacon’s 1959 essay, “Philadelphia in the Year 2009.” When read with the benefit of twenty-first- century hindsight, Bacon’s essay, chapter 1 of the volume, seems romantically utopian at best and naively simplistic at worst. Bacon appears at once eerily prescient and hopelessly out of touch. Fortunately, the contributors to Imagining Philadelphia conceived of this project as more than simply a catalogue of Bacon’s forecasting successes and failures. Imagining Philadelphia encourages readers, in the words of editor and contributor Scott Gabriel Knowles, to interpret Bacon’s essay as “less a prophecy than a gamble, a hope that big ideas could win the day, while achieving some serious and useful results along the way” (110).

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Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Scott Gabriel Knowles, ed. Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. Pp. 178. Notes, index. Paper, $50.00), Nicole Maurantonio. Copyright © 2012 Penn State University Press. This article is used by permission of the The Pennsylvania State University Press.

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