|Vina Heinley Catherman, Army Nursing School (1920s?)|
The Internet and digitization technology offer historical repositories limitless potential for sharing their unique historical resources with others. Three cooperating institutions in Lycoming County in northcentral Pennsylvania—the Snowden Library of Lycoming College, the Lycoming County Historical Society, and the James V. Brown Library -- saw this potential. In 2006, the cooperative received the first of three grants to support the creation of a digital archive.
As a result, rare photographs, correspondence, minute books, diaries, scrapbooks, recipe books, newspaper stories of local women are widely available.
All three cooperating institutions are very limited in staffing and available hours, so the material reaches users who either could not physically search the collections or did not previously know of their existence.
The focus of the project is local women’s history. Each of the institutions has rich primary source material by local women, and yet there is a general scarcity of published materials about women in the county. With the guidance of a professional historian, we chose the most significant material for digitization and chose the topic, “Williamsport Women: Words, Images, Actions: 1875-1925.” That fifty-year period was a progressive time in terms of women’s activities and also included the height of the lumber era in Williamsport, a time dominated by male achievement in the annals of written history. With additional grant monies, we have been able to expand the original date range.
In 2011, we added historically significant manuscript material from the archives of three pioneering organizations founded by local women in the late 19th century-- the Williamsport Hospital School of Nursing, the Home for the Friendless, and the Young Women’s Christian Association.
The six collections, integrated into one searchable archive, is an exceptionally important resource for the study of women’s history. In a mainly rural county, with small cities and villages, the church, education, and civic affairs are intimately connected and the activities of one individual or organization can have an impact on many others.