New Initiatives in Digital Harrisburg

There is a new buzz about our campus about the digital humanities, digital history, and the prospects of creating a digital project, or series of projects, related to the people, culture, and history of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital.

The Department of History at Messiah College has created this site to publicize our new initiatives in public history and local history, and to establish a place for our students to present their research of Harrisburg and its environs through digital media.

Dr. David Pettegrew’s Digital History class will use this site to report on archival research at Dauphin County Historical Society, the Pennsylvania State Archives, and Harrisburg City Archives related to Harrisburg’s successful City Beautiful Movement. Between 1900 and 1915, the city beautiful movement transformed Harrisburg’s urban landscape, modernized transportation and water systems, and inspired city beautiful movements nationwide. The class will also report on developing collaborations with GIS students and faculty from Messiah College, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, and Harrisburg Area Community College, which are directed to linking the U.S. census records of Harrisburg in 1900 to contemporary digitized maps. We plan to provide access to population data related to 50,000 citizens of the city at the turn of the 20th century.

Below: John Fea joins David Pettegrew’s Digital History class for the day to present on best practices in working in the archives.DigitalHistoryClass

Students in Dr. John Fea’s Pennsylvania History class are being sent into various historical archives of the region such as  the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives, Cumberland County Historical Society, Ye Old Sulphur Spa Historical Society, Dauphin County Historical Society, Northern York Historical Society, and the Pennsylvania State Archives to examine, study, and present collections related to the region’s churches, cultural and religious organizations, and African-American history. Dr. Fea will be dropping into this WordPress site on occasion to give updates about student projects and links to the sites they create in Omeka.

In future semesters, we may use this site for additional public history courses in urban history, historical archaeology, and public history, or other courses at Messiah College related to making Harrisburg visible to online viewers. This dynamic website will serve as the portal for our endeavors, but will, we hope, grow into something bigger than the history department as we work together with other academic departments and community partners.

In launching this Digital Harrisburg site about the society and history of south-central Pennsylvania, we are joining an established online community interested in the region’s history that includes projects, groups, and organizations such as the Old Eighth Ward project (Penn State University – Harrisburg), the recently launched City Beautiful 2.0 movement, Curating the City (Franklin & Marshall College), Lancaster County Digitization Project, House Divided (Dickinson College), among others. South-central Pennsylvania is a region with a rich past that deserves a place in the networked cloud.

Check back weekly during spring 2014 for updates about the work of the classes.

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