On the morning of September 24th, our Digital History class took a field-trip to the State Archives, located in central Harrisburg. I had the opportunity to complete research in the archives during my internship this summer, but only worked with the microfilm collection, so it was a really neat experience to actually handle original documents and work on digitizing them for
future reference. It was amazing to see these documents and think: “This was written over one hundred years ago.”
In February 1902, the city held an election for citizens to decide on the “bond issue,” which would set a portion of tax revenue aside for large scale public improvements. Our goal for this trip was to collect property values in each of the assigned wards, by digitizing the 1900 Annual Assessments. As I understand, this information will be used at a later time, for our second project — “City Social.” We are hoping to uncovering whether or not the property values had an effect on the way different parts of the city voted in the 1902 election. As I flipped through the Assessment of the 7th Ward and photographed each page, I marveled at the sheer number of people recorded. I never quite considered what population numbers really looked like, until I began seeing individual names. Also, apparently, no one in this ward reported owning a dog in the annual assessment – who would’ve thought?
Last week, we also began work on our first project, which focuses on the City Beautiful movement. We were each tasked with collecting relevant newspaper articles appearing in The Patriot from December 1900 to March 1902 and searched for these articles on an online database of newspapers. These articles will, hopefully, give us a better understanding of the progress of the movement and its public opposition and support before, during, and after the campaign. The goal of this project is for us to understand the factors which contributed to the population’s decision to vote in favor of improvement, including how the campaigners persuaded voters. I was assigned January 1902, which was right before the election and found quite a few (53, to be exact) articles discussing the movement, election, the Civic Club, and a variety of opinions on the proposed improvements. To my surprise, I did not encounter quite as much discourse on the topic as I was expecting. Although there were aknowledged individuals against the campaign, all of the articles I read focused on the city’s need for improvement and progress.
We have already begun organizing these articles into Google Docs folders and entering the mentioned events, people, and locations in collaborative spreadsheets. The goal of this project is for each of us to choose ten articles which align with a specific theme of the campaign, create an Omeka exhibit of them, and write a brief analysis of the information we find. I plan to focus my exhibit and analysis on the power of the public meetings mentioned in The Patriot to shape sentiment. I’m excited to see what everyone is able to deduce about this movement based on the articles we’ve identified.
-Kaitlyn Coleman, Junior History and English Major at Messiah College