Tales from the Tower: A Summer of Documents and Discovery

By Jon Bogart

IMG_0651During the summer months of 2014 I had the opportunity to serve as an intern at the Pennsylvania State Archives through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) internship program. The internship took place in Harrisburg, within the massive capitol complex, which is home to various state government agencies. The State Archives primarily collects, preserves, and makes available records of the Commonwealth. This mostly encompasses the documents of government agencies, but also includes items that belonged to private companies and citizens. The summer was full of projects, field trips, and experiences, which strengthened my skills as an archivist as well as my desire to one day enter the field.

While at the State Archives I worked within the digital archives record division on a number of projects that varied in size and format. Work primarily revolved around the process of digitizing large format documents, which mostly included maps and railroad schematics. I also had the opportunity to take part in the acquisition process for a set of records from start to finish. The operation began with the initial appraisal run and concluded with placing labels on the cartons and finding a permanent home for them within the tower. The collection was the largest I had ever handled, containing forty-two cubic feet worth of documents.Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 9.05.26 PM

In the time between large-scale projects, I developed the everyday skills archivists must have to properly do their job. This involved fulfilling reference requests for patrons, monitoring the climate of the tower, as well as monitoring the inventory of the tower where the documents were stored. I further honed my skills by participating in training sessions and workshops on preservation, disaster response, and general archival practices. Administrative meetings gave me a complete picture of how the institution functioned from top to bottom. Each assignment and workshop session helped me to better understand how even the smallest job fit into the big picture of the archives and PHMC as a whole.


Field trips were worked in over the course of the summer to give more examples of real world scenarios and demonstrate the diversity within the field. Outings included tours of the capitol complex buildings as well as historic sites run by the PHMC. The highlight of the summer was the opportunity to visit a federal, state, university, and county archive all within a single day. Each location varied in size, mission, and funding, yet they all had the same core goals in mind when it came to the preservation and presentation of the past.

During the length of the internship I was supervised by one of the state archivists in order to track my progress and designate new projects to work on. Fortunately I was surrounded by staff that always had valuable information to pass on and had a knowledgeable mentor that was also a graduate of IUP from the same degree program I am presently in. This gave me an extra boost of confidence knowing that an IUP alumnus was able to secure a position within an institution like the State Archives. My mentor provided excellent instruction and helped me to strengthen the archival skills I developed at IUP while also teaching me a few new tricks of the trade.

The archival principles course I took at IUP gave me the experience I needed to take part in the internship, which in turn strengthened the skills I learned at IUP. Spending the summer at the State Archives was an excellent investment and I walked away feeling more knowledgeable and confident regarding various aspects of archival theory and practice. The experience I gained not only strengthened my skills as an archivist, but also strengthened my desire to one day enter the field. I am truly grateful to have worked with such a dedicated staff this summer and will take the vast amount of information I learned and apply it this coming semester and beyond.


Jon Bogart is a second year graduate student at IUP, working on his MA in Public History with a focus on archival methods.

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Welcome Dr. Erin Conlin!

erin conlinWe are excited to have Dr. Erin L. Conlin join the IUP history faculty in Fall 2014 as an assistant professor (PhD University of Florida 2014.) She specializes in oral, public, and 20th-century U.S. history, and offers courses in these areas. She also researches migration, race, and labor issues, particularly in the context of agricultural workers. Her courses make connections between history and present day, and seek to enhance student learning and engagement through service learning projects.

Dr. Conlin will be teaching public history courses, as well as serving as internship coordinator. Please welcome Dr. Conlin to IUP when you see her.

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Joseph Labriola’s Internship at the Altoona Area Public Library

joe labriolaThis Spring I was given a gracious opportunity to intern at The Altoona Area Public Library in Altoona, Pennsylvania (my hometown). The Library offers many programs and services for its visitors including networking and social media classes, book sales, fingerprinting, and so much more. The Library staff were incredible, and they were determined to help me in anyway the could. As soon as I walked through the front door, they showered me with kindness and did everything in their power to help me reach success.

I worked in the special collections department under the Library Archivist, which enabled me to get hands on experience with some of the Altoona Area School District’s most unique items. My primary responsibility was to process the artifacts in the Library’s Alumni Room and create a finding aid that visitors could utilize to find the locations of the objects within the room. I also had to clean, organize, move, and order various items that would enhance the aesthetic appearance of the room and its contents. I was also able to discover a very rich history of the Altoona Area School District by reading through old yearbooks, scrapbooks, and personal correspondences.

After creating the finding aid, and testing it out myself, I found my creation to be something that was very accessible and streamlined. It was great to know that someone could use my finding aid as a guide, and would then be able to match what they were looking for with a corresponding box or file folder.
The Altoona Area Public Library enlightened me in a very empirical way. It was a hands on chance to put the skills and techniques I learned in my Public History courses to the test, and it more than enhanced my hopes in pursuing a degree in the public history field. The skills and lessons I learned due to this experience were of great importance and influence to me. I will make sure that I never forget to put them to use in my future endeavors within the public history realm.

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Joseph Pearce to Manage Collections at the Centre County Museum

Spring 2014 M.A. in Public History graduate has accepted a position as the Historical Collections Manager at the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Congratulations to Joseph!

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Congratulations to Our Spring 2014 Graduates

Congratulations to Melissa Martin and Joseph Pearce, our spring 2014 graduates.

We wish them the best for an exciting and challenging future!

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Dr. Botelho’s HIST 601 and the Early Modern Recipe Book Project

Dr. Lynn Botelho crafted a fascinating and enjoyable project for her spring semester’s HIST 601: Seminar in History. Dr. Botelho speaks to her project design:

“Our MA students are a fun mix of future public historians and future academics historians, with maybe a future editor or two thrown into the mix for good measure! My goal was three-fold. One, I wanted the students to work collaboratively on a public project and to do so very much in the way they might encounter in their work lives. Consequently, the website was built by them and its content provided by them. Two, I wanted to expose them to earlier forms of hand writing and to acquaint them with the challenges it provides. As a result, we did a crash course in early modern paleography. Here, it is hoped that the public historians could add a skill to their growing collection. And once again, we worked collaboratively to produce a full transcription of an early modern recipe book. Three, I wanted every student, regardless of professional goal, to be involved in the production of actual scholarship. Consequently, they wrote sometimes quite pioneering research papers that were entirely driven by their individual research in primary source documents, both in printed and manuscript forms. At the end of the day, we wanted to produce something that other scholars could us. Not only have their transcripts acquired attention, but so too have their blogs. They have over 50 followers and the number is growing!”

Follow their project blog at:

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Fall 2014 Course Offerings

(HIST 504) Medieval Europe I, 1000-1350
(HIST 505) Renaissance and Reformation
(HIST 526) History of Russia
(HIST 540) Colonial America
(HIST 563) Thought & Culture in Early Am
(HIST 600) Readings in History
(HIST 601) History Seminar
(HIST 605) Introduction to Public History
(HIST 770) Archival Principles & Practice

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Congratulations to our Fall 2013 Graduates!

Congratulations to our Fall 2013 graduates:

Morgan Smith
Shannon McGinnis
Mary Kay Baker

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Archives Class Works With Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County

020This fall’s HIST 771 class (Archival Principles and Practice) continues a long standing service learning partnership with the HGSIC. Our partnership with the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County, Pennsylvania (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~paicgs/), allows students the opportunity to receive hands-on instruction in archival methods as they learn of and practice the public historian’s obligation to a community.

Students work with unprocessed collections provided by the HGSIC and housed in our public history lab. They receive instructions on archival theory and practice as they process their collection. To provide proper finding aids students are required to spend considerable time at the HGSIC conducting background research on their collection. In the process they interact with the director, numerous volunteers, and community members which comprise the bulk of the HGSIC’s patrons.


This partnership has fostered a spirit of civic engagement in our students. Though their work they build relationships with the HGSIC staff. Through their research, often guided by staff, they become personally connected not only to the collection, but to the community and its history. Students gain perspective into how a community engages its past, and who is often responsible for preserving, presenting and interpreting that past. They walk away with an appreciation of the public historian’s obligations – not only to the profession or their given job, but also to the community in which they reside.

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Spring 2014 Internship Placements

Joseph Labriola: Altoona Public Library

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