Digital Harrisburg: The “Pennsylvania History” Perspective

Paxton Presbyterian Church
Paxton Presbyterian Church

As David Pettegrew noted in his original post at Digital Harrisburg, I am teaching a course in Pennsylvania history this semester at Messiah College.  This course is part of our newly revamped public history concentration, so students are not only learning about the history of the Commonwealth, but they are also getting training in local history, digital history, and oral history.

After meeting with all of the students individually this week, I am seeing some excellent potential contributions to our Digital Harrisburg initiative.

For example, Ben is hard at work on an digital exhibit (using Omeka software) on the Paxton Presbyterian Church and the way in which the congregation, which dates back to the early eighteenth-century, has remembered its past.  He is particularly interested in the way the church has dealt with the history of the so-called Paxton Boys, the Scots-Irish settlers from Paxton who massacred a group of Conestoga Indians in December 1763.  Much of his work is taking place in the Dauphin County Historical Society in Harrisburg.

Megan is working on an Omeka exhibit focused on the Harrisburg Community Theater.  She has learned that the theater was a part of the early 20th-century “Little Theater Movement” in America.  Much of her work is being conducted at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

I am also really looking forward to learning more about Beki’s oral history interview with an African-American man from Harrisburg who lived through a period of intense racial conflict in the city.  I am requiring students to submit transcripts with their interpretive papers, so we might be able to get the interview up on our Digital Harrisburg site.

These are just some of the interesting projects from my Pennsylvania History class.  Of course David Pettegrew’s Digital History course is also doing some amazing things in the city.  Stay tuned as we develop this site with more content.



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