So What Exactly are We Doing?

As you must have gathered from exploring this site, students at Messiah College are working on projects that involve bringing historical information about Harrisburg, PA and the City Beautiful Movement into the Digital Age. But with all the information about census data, archiving and digitization, it’s easy for details about what is occurring within the project to become foggy. So what exactly are we doing with our Digital History project? Our class is working on three distinct sub-projects, each pertaining to the history of Harrisburg at the turn of the 20th century.

The first part of our project is titled City Social. Briefly discussed in the previous posts, “Bringing the Past into the Present” and “City Beautiful and the 1900 Census,” City Social involves accessing census records from Harrisburg in 1900 using the library version of The records Ancestry provides are digital microfilm copies of census sheets taken throughout different wards and districts of Harrisburg. Ancestry has transcribed some of the information such as family names, ethnicity,

A portion of the census data we are processing.
A portion of the census data we are processing.

age, birthplace and year of immigration. We are working from the original census records and from the transcriptions to key data into spreadsheets. We have included a range of social data such as the number of children, occupation, years unemployed, whether the person can read, write and speak English, and whether they own or rent their home. We then upload this completed spreadsheet to a master spreadsheet containing all the census data. Each student completes up to 4000 census entries, and any incomplete data will be completed by a different set of students at a later date.

The second part of our project is titled City Beautiful, and focuses on the City Beautiful project founded in Harrisburg in the early 1900s. Essentially, students conduct research about the City Beautiful project by reading books (City Contented, City Discontented: A History of Modern Harrisburg by Paul Beers, An Illustrated History of Greater Harrisburg: Life by the Moving Road by Michael Barton) and articles (William H. Wilson’s City Beautiful Movement), as well as going to local and state archives to find information pertaining to the project. As we learn about the Visionaries behind the project, campaigns for the project, and any other information we find interesting and relevant, we put the information online on our City Beautiful Omeka site.

A screen capture of our Omeka site.
A screen capture of our Omeka site.

Currently a work in progress, the Omeka site allows us to create exhibits to display our research, allowing viewers to access the information in an organized manner. Each exhibit will pertain to a certain subject or person, and each student group will be in charge of specific exhibits.

The third and final part of the project involves the development of this website (Digital Harrisburg) as a portal to the work of the first two projects. We will post our findings both on this site and our Omeka site. We are all very excited to bring the world of historic Harrisburg to the Digital Age, and hope that you will stay tuned as we conduct further research about our Digital History project.  



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