A New Site on Digital Harrisburg

This semester, Messiah College’s history department has launched a new initiative in studying and presenting the rich past of Harrisburg and its environs through digital media. Students in two courses, Digital History and Pennsylvania History, are currently conducting research in local archives in the region and keying US Census data for Harrisburg in the year 1900.

Photo: What do dedicated history majors at Messiah College do on a Saturday morning?  They hit the archives!  Three students from Dr. Fea's Pennsylvania History Class hard at work at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle.

To document our work in these courses, the department has launched a new website and portal called Digital Harrisburg. Students in the Digital History course have already begun to post about their work. You can read the following student posts at the website:

City Beautiful and the 1900 Census
The Visionaries
The Beginning of Digital History at Messiah College

I also cross-post below the inaugural post, “New Initiatives in Digital Harrisburg

We will connect this new website via RSS feed to the History Department’s Facebook page. The site will be used regularly for classes in public history, so you can expect activity through the end of the term and in future semesters as well.

[Cross-posted from DigitalHarrisburg.com]

There is a new buzz about our campus about the digital humanities, digital history, and the prospects of creating a digital project, or series of projects, related to the people, culture, and history of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital.

The Department of History at Messiah College has created this site to publicize our new initiatives in public history and local history, and to establish a place for our students to present their research of Harrisburg and its environs through digital media.

Dr. David Pettegrew’s Digital History class will use this site to report on archival research at Dauphin County Historical Society, the Pennsylvania State Archives, and Harrisburg City Archives related to Harrisburg’s successful City Beautiful Movement. Between 1900 and 1915, the city beautiful movement transformed Harrisburg’s urban landscape, modernized transportation and water systems, and inspired city beautiful movements nationwide. The class will also report on developing collaborations with GIS students and faculty from Messiah College, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, and Harrisburg Area Community College, which are directed to linking the U.S. census records of Harrisburg in 1900 to contemporary digitized maps. We plan to provide access to population data related to 50,000 citizens of the city at the turn of the 20th century.

Below: John Fea joins David Pettegrew’s Digital History class for the day to present on best practices in working in the archives.DigitalHistoryClass

Students in Dr. John Fea’s Pennsylvania History class are being sent into various historical archives of the region such as  the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives, Cumberland County Historical Society, Ye Old Sulphur Spa Historical Society, Dauphin County Historical Society, and the Pennsylvania State Archives to explore, study, and present collections related to individuals, contexts, and organizations of the central Pennsylvania region. Dr. Fea will be dropping into this WordPress site on occasion to give updates about student projects and links to the sites they create in Omeka.

In future semesters, we may use this site for additional public history courses in urban history, historical archaeology, and public history, or other courses at Messiah College related to making Harrisburg visible to online viewers. This dynamic website will serve as the portal for our endeavors, but will, we hope, grow into something bigger than the history department as we work together with other academic departments and community partners.

In launching this Digital Harrisburg site about the society and history of south-central Pennsylvania, we are joining an established online community interested in the region’s history that includes projects, groups, and organizations such as the Old Eighth Ward project (Penn State University – Harrisburg), the recently launched City Beautiful 2.0 movement, Curating the City (Franklin & Marshall College), Lancaster County Digitization Project, House Divided (Dickinson College), among others. South-central Pennsylvania is a region with a rich past that deserves a place in the networked cloud.

Check back weekly during spring 2014 for updates about the work of the classes.

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