The Playground of History–The Archives

As our Digital History class has been finishing the last portion of our City Social Project, we have been simultaneously working on the City Beautiful Project. The City Beautiful Project involves research at two different archives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: the State Archives and the Dauphin County Historical Archives. Within each of our respective groups, we will research various components of the City Beautiful Movement and ultimately digitize primary records for display in Omeka.

Omeka ExampleExample of an Omeka Exhibit seen here

My group’s project focuses on the campaign for improvement which includes the election of Vance McCormick, the role of the Municipal League, and harmony and opposition within this campaign. The majority of our research will be done at the Dauphin County Historical Society, which provides extensive primary sources on our historical subjects. For example, within Box MG 024 there is an entire scrapbook full of newspaper articles denoting the propaganda used by the Municipal League, as well as articles concerning the support and opposition against the Campaign for Improvement beginning in 1900. This will be a great asset to our research and it has never been digitized, which would facilitate the preservation of this scrapbook (as it was not in the greatest state).


This scrapbook includes articles on Vance McCormick winning the Harrisburg election to become mayor of Harrisburg from 1902 to 1905. As one may note, the newspaper was extremely fragile. One reason historians promote digital history is to allow artifacts, such as these newspapers, to be further preserved. This scrapbook was over a century old and it showed. The scrapbook pages were completely separated from the bindings.

Other sources we found include political cartoons during the Campaign for Improvement in Harrisburg. The second piece “Wake up, Old man! They’re looking at you!”, shows how other cities were imitating the campaign and viewing Harrisburg as a “guinea pig”. Some of the watching cities include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, and St. Louis.  After three hours in the archives, my group found great pieces of history including an engraved copy of Napoleon’s Legion  to Vance McCormick from the Le Grand Chancelier of France.


Research in the archives is always a worthwhile search. Even if researchers do not achieve their goal, they will always stumble upon something interesting in this playground.

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