Reenergizing the Digital Harrisburg Initiative: A 2022 Update

by David Pettegrew

It was, strangely enough, March 11, 2020, the day everything changed, when I posted the last annual update about the work of the Digital Harrisburg Initiative. Little could I have imagined then how profoundly a pandemic would disrupt and change us over the next two and a half years.

But here we are now, on the other side, in the midst of a new academic year, ready to begin anew our work of telling rich stories about Harrisburg’s past and creating new digital toolsets, platforms, and technologies for exploring it.

Over the next few months, our students in history, English, and digital media at Messiah University will be talking publicly about the activities and projects that we’re undertaking in 2022-2023 in collaboration with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and influential local historians, change-makers, and organizations.

Some of our students are pursuing this work as part of my Digital History class — now in its fifth iteration. Students will be writing about their engagements with history and technology and, gradually, sharing their work in local histories related to Harrisburg history. I’ve decided to give the Old Eighth Ward one more go for this course — so you’ll be hearing from them about that fascinating neighborhood.

Some of our Messiah students who are minoring in Digital Public Humanities will be carrying out their work this semester through Humanities Projects courses — guided practica that cultivate development of digital skillsets through local community projects. Others will be working on projects as student fellows of the Center for Public Humanities. They will talk about the projects they’re working on this semester, which will include a self-guided video tour of the T. Morris Chester Way between the Commonwealth Monument and the McCormick Riverfront Library; an interactive map of Lincoln Cemetery, Harrisburg’s oldest extant historically Black graveyard; and an audio tour for a new garden of the Civic Club of Harrisburg. I’ll let students say more about these exciting new projects as they develop.

Professor Albert Sarvis of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology prepares for a drone photographic survey of Lincoln Cemetery on September 19, 2022.

For my part, I will be working to update and streamline our content here at the website and, if time, describe some of the stories of our work in recent years.

Thanks for reading. We’re grateful that you share our interest in the significant, often forgotten human stories of Pennsylvania’s capital city. Feel free to interact with our students by commenting directly to our essays. To make connections, contact me at

David Pettegrew is a professor of history and archaeology, and coordinator of digital public humanities, at Messiah University. You can read more about his teaching and research interests through his profile page.

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