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Remembering the Johnstown Flood

On May 31, 1889, a neglected dam and a phenomenal storm led to a catastrophe in which 2,209 people died. It's a story of great tragedy, but also of triumphant recovery. Visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, which is operated by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, to find out more about this shocking episode in American history.

"From Scholarship to Souvenirs: Telling the Story of the Johnstown Flood"
Opening on April 30, 2011! "From Scholarship to Souvenirs: Telling the Story of the Johnstown Flood" is a temporary exhibit in the museum's third floor galleries. The exhibit is free to JAHA members or with museum admission. 


Like the Chicago Fire or the San Francisco Earthquake, the Johnstown Flood became an iconic event in our nation's history. This new exhibit will demonstrate the enduring place the flood has held in American popular culture by displaying the many ways it has been recalled in various media for over a century.

"From Scholarship to Souvenirs" will include David McCullough's The Johnstown Flood, the most significant of the many histories of the flood, and memoirs, novels, prints, paintings, poetry, songs and photograph series inspired by the disaster. Posters for an amusement park ride based on the flood, sheet music for flood songs, souvenirs produced for the mass market, and many other artifacts will be displayed.

A special section is devoted to the 1989 Flood Centennial, a year-long commemoration that included dozens of special events: lectures, concerts, races, festivals, parades, public art exhibits, film presentations, and the grand openings of the newly renovated Johnstown Flood Museum and the new visitors center at the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, to name a few.

The exhibit is part of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association's preparations for the April 30 Heritage Preservation Awards, which honor those who have made significant contributions to the preservation of the region's heritage. In 2011, three of the honorees have significant connections to the flood story, and to the Johnstown Flood Museum in particular: David McCullough, author of The Johnstown Flood; Richard Mayer, who was chairman of the 1989 Flood Centennial Committee; and Dr. Barbara Zaborowski, who digitized photography and other resources related to the flood.

JAHA thanks Harrigan's Cafe & Wine Deck for their support of this exhibit!