Digital Harrisburg Spring 2018 Two-Month Review

Hello, Rachel from the Digital Harrisburg team here.


It has been a while since I last made a Digital Harrisburg post, about our bustling activity during the Fall semester, but there has been no lack of projects and events during the interim.

First day of the Digital History January-term class.

First of all, Dr. Pettegrew provides a comprehensive update to start off 2018 here. Another significant development of the new year has been the Digital History class (linked is a more detailed post of mine reflecting upon the class as a whole). As a January-term class, this was three hours of digital history five days a week for only three weeks. In this condensed and singularly-focused period, our class was able to become immersed in the digital aspect of the academic discipline all of us chose to study. Made up of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, some from our work-study and some new faces, we all gained valuable skills through various class projects. From learning the significance of blogs (like this one), how to use Microsoft Access to query data mined from Census records, and how to create online exhibits through different platforms through this one, WordPress, or Omeka, we gained many useful digital skills. In addition, as shown in the image above, this class gave us the valuable opportunity to spend several hours in historical archives. On two days of the shortened term, we spent three hours each at two different Harrisburg archives: The Pennsylvania State Archive and the Dauphin County Historical Society.

Our joint Symposium event in a Boyer hall classroom.

After this enlightening experience, some of us from the class had the opportunity to present our projects at a special campus event, the Humanities Symposium. We had begun planning for this event in the fall, so we could decide a topic, title, and organization of the event. Our Digital Harrisburg group broke our session into two parts. The first part, “House and Home: Stories of Separation and Belonging in Historic Harrisburg,” discussed the continuity and displacement of individuals within the city during the early 20th century. The second, “Finding Home: Housing and Travel in Segregated America, 1900-1960,” considered the Negro Motorist Green Book travel guide and the challenges of travel to Harrisburg in the 1940s given segregated space and restrictive covenants.

Now, we have been working on research for Dr. Pettegrew’s Hoverter course, which is focusing this semester on the history of Harrisburg. Brian, Sarah, Arion, and I split up the Hoverter student’s research topics and, using gathered information from the two archives mentioned above and, made a preliminary list of possible resources. Also, as the Hoverter course students will be writing about a house and home over time, we searched Access for census information from the years 1900-1930 for specific addresses. After finding the information for the address, we input the information into Excel documents. This way, the student could see who lived in a singular house over the course of thirty years.

The two screens that I work on displaying Access and Excel records for 44 N. Summit Street in Harrisburg.

More specifically, Sarah is working on social maps using information from the National Census Bureau between the early to mid-20th century. Arion is continuing his work on Harrisburg census transcriptions and Brian is organizing the Fellows group and beginning to develop a Humanities Collaboratory. Kelly is continuing to work on the new Digital Harrisburg website for her senior Computer Science class with fellow classmates Kira and Jonathan. After several “sprints,” or periods of intense coding and designing, they have a detailed foundation for the site.  I am currently working on checking the accuracy of the streets listed in our Access copy of the 1900 census; making sure that the information is standardized and there are no glaring errors that I notice while scrolling through the tens of thousands of entries.

Additionally, we will be geo-referencing a digitizing a redlining map in GIS as we continue to study racial segregation and the color line.


In sum, we’ve been quite busy, and I am pleased to announce that there is more to come.

2 thoughts on “Digital Harrisburg Spring 2018 Two-Month Review

  1. Good idea. Are you looking for anything in particular? We’re winding down for the academic year but might think ahead toward next year.

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