Digital Harrisburg: A Beginner’s Guide

Over the course of the past year, there’s been a lot of talk at Messiah and in the local community about Digital Harrisburg. Maybe you know a lot about the project and are sick of hearing your friends talk about it, maybe you’ve never heard of it, or maybe have heard of it but stop listening when someone brings it up. Well, now’s the time to learn about the project. I’m bringing you into the meeting room. Let’s get started. It’s Wednesday, 8 am, the Digital Harrisburg Team is already hard at work surrounded by coffee and tea.


The meeting starts as they all do: updates. The team has been hard at work, they haven’t stopped working hard since the very beginning. Starting with Dr. Pettegrew’s Digital History class last year, the Digital Harrisburg Initiative hit the ground running through data entry from the 1900 Harrisburg Census and creating an online exhibit about Harrisburg’s City Beautiful Movement. From here, the DH team was created and began work on finishing the 1900 Census project, adding other cities, other census years, and information from outside sources, such as tax assessments and church records. Working with faculty and student at other universities and in other disciplines, we were able to create the digital map of 1900 Harrisburg. Through this searchable map, you can click on any house in Harrisburg and find the census information pertaining to the 1900 residents.

Going around the table at 8 am, the team discusses what they have worked on in the past week. James has been editing the collected data to make our database look clean and query more efficiently. David has been adding in property values for the Harrisburg homes found in tax assessment paperwork. Dr. Pettegrew has been working on our latest conference proposal. I have been working on the 1910 Harrisburg Census database. After updates, we begin what I lovingly refer to as “the brain-trust segment.” In this time, we problem solve any issues that have developed since we met last week and we discuss the future of the project. Looking into the future for Digital Harrisburg, we move into 1910, and over the summer 1920. Within the next few years, we will have a complete database of 1880-1940 and we will continue to add information as it becomes available, including more church records, property values, etc. The possibilities are endless and the future looks bright for Digital Harrisburg.

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