UPJ and JAHA to collaborate on digitization of 1889 flood archival materials

UPJ and JAHA to collaborate on digitization of 1889 flood archival materials

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) recently approved a Pitt-Johnstown grant application to support the digitization and dissemination of a large collection of archival materials from the Johnstown Area Heritage Association (JAHA). The material consists of photographs, handwritten documents, and other artifacts related to the Johnstown Flood. Once scanned, the material will be accessible through the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s website, Historic Pittsburgh.

Led by primary investigator Jeremy C. Justus, PhD, the project represents a collaborative effort. “This project represents a significant and meaningful relationship between Pitt-Johnstown and JAHA,” said Justus. “We hope it’ll serve the Pitt system-wide academic community, the local Johnstown community, and broader, global communities of people interested in the historical and cultural significance of the Johnstown Flood.”

Other participants include: Pitt-Johnstown’s Multimedia and Digital Culture program (MMDC), JAHA Director Richard Burkert (along with Shelley Johansson and Andrew Lang), and University Library System staff, including Peter Egler and David Kupas at the ULS Owen Library, Eve Wider, Director of the Millstein Library and Coordinator of Regional ULS Libraries, and Ed Galloway, Associate University Librarian for Archives & Special Collections.

“JAHA holds nationally significant collections of photography documenting the 1889 flood, immigration to this area, and the early steel industry,” said Richard Burkert, president of JAHA. “We’re delighted that this grant will enable us to make these collections available to a much wider audience, and Historic Pittsburgh is a wonderful website that has the technical capability of doing that.”

Students in Pitt-Johnstown’s MMDC program as well as those taking courses in public history with Paul Douglas Newman, PhD, will gain a significant amount of hands-on experience digitizing images, creating metadata for digitized materials, and transcribing archival texts to render them searchable in online venues. The project will also give upper-level MMDC majors an opportunity to work in internships with JAHA and the University Library System.

The approved budget will support the installation of a small digitization lab on the Pitt-Johnstown campus, a paid internship in the MMDC program, and support for both JAHA and Historic Pittsburgh.