Collection takes a backstage look at key African-American-themed murals

How do you curate a museum that spans an entire city?

With more than 3,000 murals, Philadelphia's 27-year-old Mural Arts Program has responded in two parts. It started with the successful Mural Mile, a program launched last summer that facilitates free self-guided tours of 17 murals in the area from 6th to Broad streets and Market to Bainbridge streets.

The next stage of the curatorial initiative, the Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Mural Collection, launches today at the African American Museum, with audio tours narrated by Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, drummer for The Roots, starting Saturday. With the help of artists, scholars and community leaders, the audio guide provides in-depth histories of 21 murals culled from around the city by curators who consider these artworks synonymous with African-American history in Philadelphia. Twenty-six more murals are included in the collection, and their stories can be accessed online at www.mural

After 27 years of public service - beautifying poor neighborhoods, improving community image and giving a sense of purpose to young adults with criminal backgrounds - officials of the Mural Arts Program decided it was time to take the public behind the scenes. With the Iconic Images tour, Mural Arts can tell the stories of how these paintings came to be, and what they meant - and still mean - to their communities.