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City Beautiful

The City Beautiful project focuses on the movement of urban improvement that transformed Harrisburg in the early twentieth century–even as similar progressive movements transformed other American cities. The movement began in Harrisburg after Mira Lloyd Dock gave a public lecture in December 1900 lamenting the dire state of the city and advocating its potential for rebirth. Ultimately, a group of visionaries rallied the population to vote for a bond issue in 1902 for improvements such as green spaces, improved drainage and sewage systems, and extensive street paving throughout the city.

Messiah College students in a Digital History course (Spring 2014) sought to tell the story of the movement through an Omeka site. Each student was assigned a topic or a key player in the City Beautiful Movement to research. These topics included organizations and subjects that dealt with the Civic Club, the Municipal League, the improvements around the city, and how Harrisburg voted on these improvements. Students conducted intensive research on their topic by visiting local and state archives and locating manuscript groups related to the topics. Students also enhanced their research through reading books, articles and biographies pertaining to the progress movement in Harrisburg. As students furthered their research on their topics, they posted all relevant information online on the City Beautiful Omeka site. The Omeka site is organized into items, collections, and exhibits that present the student research and analysis of this key event.

In fall 2015, the Digital History course will revisit the Harrisburg City Beautiful project and revamp the Omeka website. The class will also continue to work on the Harrisburg City Social project reconstructing the population of the city in the early twentieth century. The two projects are related, of course, since the population both supported the City Beautiful movement and was ultimately affected by it.