Molly Elspas, Project Manager Andrew Dyrli Hermeling, Rachel Williams, and Anna Strange

This website is devoted to the Digital Harrisburg Initiative, a digital public humanities project, or series of projects, created by students and faculty of Messiah College and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology that explore the history and culture of the Harrisburg area. The Digital Harrisburg Initiative is intended to provide a public resource for learning about and understanding Harrisburg, build community and institutional connections across the region, and deepen students understanding of history, the humanities, and digital technology. This website and blog is the public outlet for that initiative and is populated with content created by the students and faculty from these institutions.

The website and the broader digital initiative were launched through four classes in spring 2014. Professor David Pettegrew’s Digital History class used the site to report on student archival research related to Harrisburg’s successful City Beautiful Movement, and the digitization of federal census data for the city in 1900 and a contemporary historical atlas of the city. Professor Jeff Erikson of Messiah College and Professor Albert Sarvis of Harrisburg University worked with their GIS courses to begin to digitize the 1901 atlas and relate the census data to geocoded addresses in GIS. Dr. John Fea and his students in Pennsylvania History conducted archival research related to the region’s churches, cultural and religious organizations, and African-American history. These courses populated this site with new material, spawned an Omeka website devoted to City Beautiful, created a database of information about half the population of the city in 1900, and digitized several of the wards in GIS.

The initiative continued in 2014 and 2015 through the newly created Digital Harrisburg working group, a small team of faculty and students from both institutions (Professors David Pettegrew, Jeff Erikson, and Albert Sarvis, and history and GIS students Rachel Carey, David Crout, Rachel Morris, James Mueller, and Dan Stolyarov) that sought to develop the demographic datasets. Additional courses in Pennsylvania History (Fea) and U.S. Urban History (LaGrand) also contributed church membership data for the Market Square Presbyterian Church in 1900, helped to standardize the messy occupations and industry data from the federal census, and drafted a history of Catholicism in Harrisburg between 1900 and 1910 based on news pieces harvested from The Patriot and The Telegraph.

Messiah College history majors and Harrisburg University GIS student conduct data entry and GIS in fall 2014.

To date, the working group has completed the input of the 1900 census data, the associated GIS data for a contemporary map, 1910 federal census data, and an interactive map of the population and buildings of the city in 1900/1901. In the 2015-2016 academic year, we will continue to fine-tune and normalize all data sets, add property values for 1900, and input the 1920 federal census. The Digital History course will also be working again on the City Beautiful project by adding new imagery and spatial analysis of the movement at the Omeka website.

As we have implemented student projects for these courses, we have connected with faculty and students in other courses and institutions, historical societies in the region, community partners, and individuals well-versed in Harrisburg’s history. In the future, we hope to use this dynamic website to include input from other academic departments and community partners. If you would like to connect with us in this initiative, please contact David Pettegrew or Albert Sarvis.

For another detailed overview, see our inaugural post, New Initiatives in Digital Harrisburg. Two presentations on the City Social Project are available here.

Professor John Fea discusses best practices in archival research to the digital history students.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Are you looking for photos from the 1940s? I have a Penbrook Elementary School class photo of first graders in 1947.

  2. Hi, Donna, thanks much for your note, we’re just beginning to collect material that is more recent. Let me talk to the team and get back to you.

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