The Archives and the Economy
A Message from State Archivist David Haury
The nationwide recession has impacted the current and proposed budgets of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and therefore the Pennsylvania State Archives. Most immediate in FY 2008-2009 has been a freeze on hiring and a prohibition on out-of-state travel and conference participation. Our usual delegation of archives staff could not attend the recent MARAC meeting in West Virginia. Five staff have retired or left the Bureau of Archives and History over the past year and their positions have been abolished: two in the records management program and three in the archives. Luis Chacon retired from and Darlene Shafer left the records management program, and Harry Parker, Bill Gordon, and Lou Waddell all retired from the archives. This represents a more than ten percent loss of staff in these programs, and recovering the positions is unlikely in the foreseeable future. This will have a major impact on areas where we are already stretched thin. Additional positions may be frozen when additional staff leave or retire, and the budget may also require furloughs and additional program cuts this summer. More information will be available after the FY 2009-2010 budget has been passed
Municipal Government Records Retention Schedule
The Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls Project Winds Down
The Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls Project came to an end in June. As reported previously in Access Archives, official records of the approximately 362,000 soldiers who served from Pennsylvania have been used so much over the past 150 years they are literally falling apart. Thanks to an initiative of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society (PHS) and PHMC, $375,000 from the federal Save America’s Treasures program and $450,000 from the Pennsylvania General Assembly was received for their preservation. The three-year project, begun in October 2005, was to conserve 2500 Muster-Out rolls. Due to the severe condition of many of the rolls, more so than originally thought, we have only been able to conserve about two-thirds of these. Also, a promised third year of funding from the General Assembly was eliminated due to funding cutbacks. We are currently seeking new sources of funding to complete the project and to eventually scan the completed rolls and place them in a public access database.
The Heritage Society is interested in contacting Civil War Reenactor and Roundtable Groups for possible assistance with preservation of specific regiments and companies. For more information, contact the Civil War Muster Rolls Project care of: Linda A. Ries, Project Director firstname.lastname@example.org or the Pennsylvania Heritage Society at (717) 787-2407. Archives staff members are also available to speak to interested groups about the success of the project.
Archives to assist African-American Grants Program
The State Archives will assist the Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP) of PHMC in a program to support ways of teaching and preserving African-American history in Pennsylvania. BHP is the recipient of a Preserve America Grant, a federal initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage.
Using this federal grant award, the PHMC will make project grants available to encourage the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of Pennsylvania’s African American history.
The maximum grant award to an organization is $15,000. Grant requests up to $5,000 will not require a match. Grants from $5,001 to $15,000 require a dollar-for-dollar match. The types of projects that can receive funding range from public education, museum exhibits, and research, to preservation of archival records. PHMC staff will assist organizations in the development of an application, a draft of which will be required before final submission.
Ben Hoover: Learning while Doing
In a program benefiting both the Archives and local students, Ben Hoover is spending one or two afternoons a week in the Archives unfolding, cleaning, placing in folders, and boxing nineteenth century Quarter Session Court records of Bedford County. These records offer a window to social problems that faced many county inhabitants, leading to their appearance before a judge. Often in very delicate condition, Ben’s careful work will assure their preservation and availability to researchers for many years to come.
In May, Ben graduated from Penn State University at Harrisburg with a degree in American Studies. He plans to begin a Master’s program in Library Science with an emphasis on Archives, through distance learning from the University of Pittsburgh. If school and archival work isn’t enough, Ben also has another job and is married with a daughter. He says organization is the key to his being able to accomplish so much. The American Studies program at Penn State Harrisburg has developed other beginning archivists who have done excellent work, both at the State Archives and the City of Harrisburg. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Barton, this program creates and nurtures a love of history.
Ben will soon begin to process eighteenth and nineteenth century Estate Papers, also from Bedford County. These records include wills and letters of administration and are among the most valued records for family historians and researchers studying the accumulation of wealth in the past. Ben’s fine work assures another window to the past is kept open.
Archives Without Tears: Statewide Training A Success!
In May and June, through a State and National Archival Partnership (SNAP) Grant from the National Historical and Publications and Records Commission, the State Archives, together with the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, presented three two-day workshops at various locations around the state.
The workshops were made possible through collaboration with local historical organizations, including the Lycoming County Historical Society (Williamsport), the Chester County Historical Society (West Chester), and the Westmoreland County Historical Society (Latrobe).
The training offered an affordable, educational opportunity specifically for employees and volunteers at historical records repositories. A total of 108 persons, representing 78 organizations attended the workshops, which explored the basics of archives, including collecting, processing, housing and outreach. Additionally, the workshops examined PHMC grant programs, disaster planning/recovery, and preservation of photographic media. Staff members Jerry Ellis, Josh Stahlman and Linda Ries conducted the well-received workshops and hope to continue the program in the future.
Summer 2009 Interns
Rebecca Swanger has been awarded this year's PHMC Environmental Internship at the Pennsylvania State Archives. She is a resident of Mechanicsburg who is completing her Junior year at Susquehanna University and serves as a History Student Supervisor in the History Department, is a member of the Susquehanna University Presidential Fellows, the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society and the Kappa Delta Pi Education Honors Society. She is active in the Susquehanna University Environmental Club and attended this year's convention of the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Professionals (PAEP) in State College. Rebecc’as internships is supported by the PAEP, with additional funding coming from Gannett Fleming, McCormick Taylor, and Cultural Heritage Research Services, Inc.
Rebecca began her internship, overseen by archivist Willis Shirk, on May 18 and is currently researching environmentalist Joseph T. Rothrock, the Commonwealth's first Commissioner of Forestry. She is compiling a biographical piece on his life and importance to the Pennsylvania Forestry movement, and has 8500 words completed thus far. She has also learned about preservation by observing the Civil War Muster Roll project, and has participated in surface cleaning and encapsulation.
Joseph Malatesta, a native of McAdoo, Schuylkill County, received his undergraduate degree in History from Bloomsburg University. He then earned a master's degree in History from East Stroudsburg University, and is currently enrolled at Long Island University. Joe is taking Library Science/Archives classes in LIU's Library & Information Science master's program on the campus of New York University. He hopes to work in a government archives after graduation, thus his internship at the Pennsylvania State Archives will be an excellent experience. Joe currently resides in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the heart of the Poconos.
Working with archivist Brett Reigh, Joe has processed Manuscript Group 463, the Susquehanna Coal Company Records, 1901-1905, and is now helping to process Manuscript Group 48, the Fall Brook Railroad and Coal Company Records, 1768-1938 (bulk 1819-1938). Joe is also getting the opportunity to assist with our efforts to digitally scan Warrantee Township Maps and link the images to our web pages.
Michelle Bayer is a sophomore at Muhlenberg College, majoring in history. She hopes to pursue an archival career with one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. She is a big fan of Frank Sinatra, a writing tutor to other students, and conducts public opinion polls during the school year for the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion.
Working with archivist Sharon Nelson, Michelle is processing the records of Manuscript Group 435, the American Peace Test Records, 1986-1990, which were donated by Sedgwick [Nancy] Heskett, one of the founders of the American Peace Test. This organization was founded in January 1986, with headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada and used nonviolent, direct action and citizens' resistance to bring about an end to nuclear warhead testing. Ms. Heskett was one of three national co-coordinators and staffperson for the eastern U.S. field office headquarters for the organization.
Meredith Havard will be a senior at Gettysburg College, majoring in history. She completed her most recent semester abroad in Greece. She is active on campus as a peer counselor and a charity fundraiser. Meredith plans to pursue a career as an archivist.
Meredith is also working with Sharon Nelson. She began her internship more recently due to her semester abroad but has been deciphering eighteenth century Pennsylvania Supreme Court case records and making item-level listings that include the names of the parties involved. When these completed listings are uploaded to our website, genealogists and historians the world over will be able to find those long-buried names when doing word searches with their internet browsers. During her internship, Meredith will also get a chance to process a records collection and assist patrons in the Archives search room.
Where the Heck is Heather Heckman?
It’s not as difficult as “Where’s Waldo?”, but keeping track of our Itinerant Archivist, Heather Heckman, does require some alertness. In March, Heather finished her first year’s task— assisting seven southwestern Pennsylvania counties. As reported in earlier issues of Access Archives, Heather was hired under the terms of an NHPRC grant which allows the State Archives to pilot the use of a traveling archivist in providing more varied assistance to local governments. Spending up to eight weeks with selected applicants, Heather has accomplished a lot of critical work specific to each county’s needs.
Beginning in April, Heather began the second year of the project which encompasses seven counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. Her first stop was Scranton, the county seat of Lackawanna County. Her first order of business was to inventory records and their location to develop information that will be helpful in the county’s assessment of potential records management solutions.
Following her work in Scranton, Heather will visit the Endless Mountains area in Bradford and Susquehanna Counties. She is making a difference in support of local government records programs. At the time of publication, she had inventoried 19,478 cubic feet of records, created floor plans for three large storage areas, drafted disaster and vital records plans and county records manuals, as well as reports and recommendations for thirty departments/offices.
Former Intern Update!
Selected Additions to the Pennsylvania State Archives November 2008—May 2009
(RG=Record Group; MG=Manuscript Group; MF=Microfilm; cu. ft.=cubic feet)
RG-15 Department of Justice
Eastern State Penitentiary:
Accounts of John Bacon, Treasurer, 1821-1824, 2 volumes
Medical Cases of Colored and White Prisoners, 1841, 2 sheets
RG-16 Department of Labor and Industry
Prevailing Wage Advisory Board: Minutes of Meetings, 1963-2001, 2 cu. ft.
PA Community Service Advisory Board: Minutes of Meetings, 1989-2003, 2 cu. ft.
Workers Compensation Advisory Council: Minutes of Meetings, 1995-2004, 1 cu. ft.
RG-22 Department of Education
Pennsylvania Governor’s Schools: Records, 1971-2006, 22 cu. ft.
RG-23 Department of Public Welfare
Dixmont State Hospital: Records (additions), 1874-1902, 7 boxes
RG-39 Game Commission
Board of Commissioners: Minutes of Meetings, 2000-2004, 4 cu. ft.
RG-64 Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Records of Lieutenant Governor Katherine Baker Knoll, 2003-2008, 15 cu. ft.
RG-66 Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Water Standards and Facility Regulations:
Division of Planning and Permits Subject Files, 1991-1996, 24 cu. ft.
Bureau of Water Quality Management:
Water Quality Division Water Quality Standards, 1991-1996, 8 cu. ft.
RG-81 Board of Probation and Parole
Firearms Training Commission (FETC):
Administrative Correspondence and Subject Files, 1996-2002, 2 cu. ft.
Minutes of Meetings, 1997-2002, 2 cu. ft.
MG-508 Shippingport Atomic Power Station Collection, 1954-2009, .25 cu. ft. (see collection feature in this issue).
Charter Day 2009
Collection Feature: Shippingport Atomic Power Station Collection
An important grouping of historical photographs and records relating to the construction and evolution of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station was received by the Pennsylvania State Archives in April from GAI Consultants, Inc. on behalf of First Energy Nuclear Operating Company and American Nuclear Insurers. This accession resulted from the current collaboration between GAI and the PHMC to guide First Energy Nuclear Operating Company through the National Historic Preservation Act compliance process for their Beaver Valley I and II nuclear power plants.
Many of the prints were rescued from a trash container a number of years ago and are stamped on the reverse with Westinghouse Electric negative numbers. (Now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation of Japan, Westinghouse Electric Company of Pittsburgh designed and oversaw construction of the three generations of Shippingport reactors as well as more than half of all currently operating commercial nuclear power plants world wide.) These photographs were provided to GAI Consultants by Stanley P. Focht of American Nuclear Insurers of Glastonbury, CT and Michael D. Banko III of First Energy Nuclear Operating Company who stipulated that after the environmental site review process was completed they be donated to the permanent custody of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
In 1957 Shippingport, Pennsylvania became home to America's first commercial nuclear power plant under President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program. Two decades later, under the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Department of Energy converted the Shippingport plant into a Light Water Breeder Reactor that successfully demonstrated the feasibility of using thorium and uranium-233 fuel to "breed" more fuel than it consumed in generating electricity. By 1989, after more than twenty-five years of operation, the Shippingport facility also became the first commercial nuclear power plant in the nation to be successfully decommissioned and the land released for unrestricted public use. In recognition of its landmark significance, a state historical marker will be dedicated at Shippingport in August 2009.
The new materials are now part of Manuscript Group 508, The Shippingport Atomic Power Station Collection. An article on the history of Shippingport, written by Archivist Willis Shirk, appears in the Spring 2009 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage.
Save the Date
NAGARA will be meeting
The Society of American Archivists (
The Pennsylvania State Archives will hold its annual Archives and Records Management Seminar,
The 54th annual conference of ARMA will take place
The Pennsylvania Historical Association will present its annual meeting at
MARAC will be meeting in