Sunday, June 29, 2008

Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh

When I was getting my Masters Degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh a few years ago I was introduced to the wonderful resources in the Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I served my field placement at the library and archives from Sept to Dec in 2006, liked it so much that I went back as a volunteer. I was then hired in May to work on a film digitization project that was being funded by a grant. I worked there until this past January when I went to work at Pitt in the LIS program where I got my degree. It was during the time working in the L&A that I learned what a great place this is for doing genealogy research on families in Western PA. The Library and the museum itself actually fall under the heading of the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society (HSWP). The L&A has as it's main focus, to collect materials that are representative of life in Western PA. This includes areas from Centre County west to the Ohio Border. They have some records from the nearby areas of Ohio and Virginia and West Virginia because they were all so intertwined with the history of PA.

They have maps, manuscripts, photos, postcards, books, periodicals, personal papers, famliy collections, diaries, newspapers, films, church records, cemetery transcriptions, Pittsburgh City Directories, files of newspaper articles about the city and surrounding areas, great sports collections, and so much more. They have such a wide variety of things. While I was working there I looked through their finding aids and found a family collection with a name that I recognized as being from the Centerville area of Washington County (very near Beallsville and the town where my Grandfather was born and raised). I looked through the file and found a letter that actually mentioned my Great-great grandfather being appointed to the School Board of that area! You just never know what you might find.

The collection at the Library and Archives is non-circulating. Nothing leaves the reading room but if you live near Pittsburgh and have ancestors from that area, it might be worth a trip. The library catalog can been seen online at the Historic Pittsburgh website.
In the upper right hand corner you will see the tab HSWP. You can do keyword searches and title searches of the catalog. The catalog on this website is a few years behind so not everything is available here but it will give you a great idea of what they have. You can also contact the library reference desk by phone or email if you have any questions. They do have research services for hire as well. Depending on the item, they can make photocopies of things and send them to you for a very reasonable price.

This is one of Pittsburgh's hidden treasures and one that I highly recommend checking out.

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