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Special Collections Receives Two Grants

Wooden-hinged boat plans

Lehigh Special Collections recently received two competitive grants that will further LTS’ commitment to expanding access to the Lehigh Valley’s industrial history. The grants support work to process, catalog, digitize, and develop finding aids to facilitate research and discovery using important pamphlets, photographs, maps, and drawings. The grants are:

  • • A Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) program “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections” awarded $249,794 to The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) to fund the cataloging and processing of forty-six collections in the Philadelphia region, including two collections at Lehigh.

  • • A Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant for $20,420 was awarded to digitize maps and drawings from Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company

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Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Grant

The collections from sixteen member institutions, including Lehigh, document the Greater Philadelphia region’s development as an industrial, commercial, and cultural center during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Included in Lehigh’s portion of the project are the following two collections:

  • • The Birkinbine Engineering Company Records document the work of the late 19th through early 20th century Philadelphia engineering firm. The collection includes approximately 400 Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company Drawings and Maps dating from the 19th century. Birkinbine, which specialized in water works and mining engineering, had operations throughout the Americas, including in Pennsylvania. Engineer and businessman John Birkinbine had an interest in manufacturing pig iron from charcoal and utilized his knowledge of hydraulics. His concern about the impact of this industry on the environment led him to found the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. Among the materials to be cataloged are pamphlets, photographs, lantern slides, photographs, and maps.

  • • Founded in 1822, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (LCNC) became one of the most important companies in the emergence of the American Industrial Revolution for its innovative approach to canal systems, iron production and coal mining. LCNC transported anthracite coal from Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) to Easton and Philadelphia, reaching New York by the 1830s. The LCNC collection includes drawings of canal locks, gates, boats, dams, and maps that include the locations of the locks and the property lines surrounding the canals.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has generously funded the CLIR Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives Program since 2008. CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant

The LSTA grant will be used to digitize the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (LCNC) maps and drawings.

Pennsylvania’s wealth of extractable resources fueled the emergence of the coal, iron, and steel industries throughout the Lehigh Valley. Special Collections routinely receives requests for technical, geographical, environmental, and genealogical information that will likely be satisfied by the online availability of these drawings. Intended to document anthracite fields in the 19th century, these maps reveal property boundaries, names of residents and businesses, and the course of waterways. They provide a snapshot of a regional technological and industrial history through detailed drawings of canals, culverts, locks, and related equipment. The collection will be added to Lehigh’s digital project, “Beyond Steel: An Archive of Lehigh Valley Industry and Culture”.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, Governor.