Archives Month Philly: Free exhibit on Delaware River life in Bristol

Contributed by Shaun Kirkpatrick

Bristol exhibit overview

General view of the Bristol waterfront exhibit

Did you know that an amusement park once sat on an island in the middle of the Delaware River?  Or that a Bristol, Pa.-to-Burlington, N.J. ferry in the 1750s charged 6 pence for a pig to ride (the same as a human), unless the pig was dead…in which case it was still charged 3 pence?  These and other surprising facts can be found in “Bristol’s Riverfront Connection,” a free Archives Month Philly exhibit at the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library in Bristol, Pa.

Displays examine such regional maritime topics as pre-colonial inhabitants, early settlers, mills, ferries, fishing, shipbuilding, and yachting and other riverfront recreation; the ecology of the river is also addressed.

Bristol exhibit case

One of the exhibition cases


The exhibit is open from Oct. 18 to Nov. 15, during normal library hours (Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday toSaturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Sunday).

For more information, visit:

Archives Month Philly: Making sauerkraut at the German Society

Contributed by Shaun Kirkpatrick


Attendees at sauerkraut-making workshop

On Oct. 14 at the German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP), local food writer Marisa McClelland led a workshop on making that definitively German dish, sauerkraut.  For a little over an hour, McClelland helped attendees use a tablespoon of salt and some mixing and mashing to turn two pounds of cabbage into what will hopefully become a tasty jar of sauerkraut in a week’s time.  It was messy, particularly for the less-culinary-inclined, but fun.

Topping off the evening, GSP librarian Chrissy Bellizzi treated visitors to an enjoyable display of historic cookbooks in the impressive Horner Memorial Library reading room.  Missed it?  The cookbooks will remain on display through the end of October during normal library hours (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).



The finished product

Archives Month Philly Returns!


Archives Month Philly, a month-long festival of history-themed events at Philadelphia’s vibrant and diverse archives, special collections libraries, and cultural institutions, returns for a second year.

This year’s headlining events include a chance to view historic lantern slides, an exclusive look at the stories of Philadelphia’s World War I dead, a revealing talk on the famed Wanamaker Organ, and a fun evening of “Philly History Quizzo.” The full lineup of events features programming at more than 15 regional institutions, including the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Heritage Center of the Union League, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

Part of American Archives Month, Archives Month Philly is an opportunity for archives and archivists to celebrate the value of historical records with a dynamic program of events at many of the Delaware Valley’s most notable repositories.

Archives Month Philly officially starts tomorrow with a talk on Philadelphia LGBT history co-sponsored by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Then, join us on Oct. 8, when the Wagner Free Institute of Science (1700 W. Montgomery Ave.) hosts the second annual Philadelphia Lantern Slide Salon in its Victorian-era lecture hall at 6 p.m.  The salon will use a historic lantern projector to showcase 19th- and 20th-century glass lantern slides from the collections of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Barbara Bates Center for the History of Nursing, the Historical Society of Frankford, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Also notable this year, with the centennial of the start of World War I, is a presentation on a new online database of the over 2,500 military personnel from Philadelphia who lost their lives in the war.  The database, created by volunteers from the academic and genealogical communities, and the stories it has uncovered will be showcased at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (1300 Locust St.) on Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.  (Registration is required to attend.)

Events continue throughout October with behind-the-scenes tours, ongoing exhibitions, presentations, a sauerkraut-making workshop, and even a historical-hair-themed social evening dubbed “’Staches and Spirits.”  For more information, including a full schedule and event descriptions, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

See you around at Archives Month Philly!

Remembering the Great War with Operation War Diary

Contributed by Bryan J. Dickerson

In the summer of 1914, the Great Powers of Europe plunged into the first of two calamitous world wars.   This year, as part of the efforts to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Great War, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the Imperial War Museum and Zooniverse have teamed up for Operation War Diary.  The goal of this online archival project is to open up greater access to records of the Great War for historians and the general public.

Launched earlier this year, Operation War Diary provides a unique opportunity for historians, archivists and interested members of the public to assist in making military history records available for online research.  For this project, war diaries of British Army units were digitized and entered into an online database.  Volunteer “Citizen Historians” then review the individual digitized pages of the war diaries and index them, capturing a wide range of historical data.  In the future, such indexing will enable people to search those thousands of pages of digitized war records to do research on battles, military units and individual soldiers and officers.

Zooniverse has made the indexing process remarkably user-friendly.   Drop down menus enable the “Citizen Historian” to quickly identify and capture important information contained on each war diary page.  Such data being collected includes dates, unit locations, unit activities, persons mentioned, casualties, battles, and the weather.

To become a “Citizen Historian” one only needs to register for a free online account with Zooniverse.  A ten minute tutorial explains how to index the records.   The Citizen Historian is then free to choose from one of the dozens of digitized war diaries contained on the website.  The units included in Operation War Diary include some of the most distinguished ones in the British Army, including the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, the Coldstream Guards, and the Irish Guards.  In addition to infantry units, there are cavalry, field ambulance, field artillery and service units.

I volunteered to become a Citizen Historian in June 2014.  In selecting a unit to review, I sought out one that had been involved in the Great War from the very beginning.  I chose to work with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Highlanders, more commonly known as “the Black Watch.”  Founded in the 1730s, this regiment’s long history includes distinguished service in the Seven Years War, the American War for Independence and the Napoleonic Wars.

In August 1914, 1st Battalion/Black Watch deployed from its home in Scotland to serve as part of Field Marshall Sir John French’s British Expeditionary Force.  1st Battalion participated in the retreat from Mons, the battles on the Marne River, the advance to the Aisne River and the First Battle of Ypres.  Later in the war, 1st Battalion fought in the 1916 Somme Offensive, the 1917 Second Battle of Passchendaele, the German offensive of spring 1918 and the Allied offensives of 1918 which forced the Germans to seek an Armistice in November of that year.  The battalion’s participation in these battles is recorded in its Unit Diary.

Besides the accounts of battles and casualty figures, the Unit Diary also records many other aspects of the soldiers’ lives.  This includes religious worship services, weather conditions, billeting (housing) when not at the front, unit movements, training, hygiene, inspections and visits by superior officers.

Operation War Diary provides a unique opportunity for historians and archivists alike.  As a historian, one reviews digital images of the war diaries to record important historical information.  As an archivist, one indexes the documents and helps to make these documents more accessible to researchers and the general public.  It is both a fascinating intellectual exercise and a fitting tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Great War.