The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) successfully completed work on its National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) digitization grant, resulting in online access to 140 cubic feet of materials from the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection. The materials from the Coal, Camps and Railroads project is available to the public through the digital library ExploreUK.
The newly digitized materials at UK focus on 189 years of economic development in the Eastern Kentucky coalfield from 1788 to 1976. The 10 individual collections document:
· the search for, extraction of, and distribution of coal, oil and natural gas resources in Breathitt, Boyd, Clark, Floyd, Harlan, Lawrence, Letcher, Perry and Powell counties;
· the creation of railroads to bring these raw materials to industrial manufacturers and electrical power generators across the United States; and
· the company towns, their services and the individuals who grew up and made possible this economic development.
UK SCRC was originally awarded the NEH's Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRC) grant for the Coal, Camps and Railroads project in 2013. The HCRC program supports projects that provide an essential underpinning for scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities. Thousands of libraries, archives, museums and historical organizations across the country maintain important collections of books and manuscripts; photographs, sound recordings and moving images; archaeological and ethnographic artifacts; art and material culture; and digital objects. Funding from this NEH program strengthens efforts to extend the life of such materials and make their intellectual content widely accessible, often through the use of digital technology.
SCRC faculty, staff and students who worked on the project included Stacy Yelton, Crystal Heis, Shell Dunn, Nicole Reynolds (Digital Lab graduate assistant), Michael Slone, Ruth Bryan, Ida Sell, Megan Mummey, Deirdre Scaggs (PI), and Sarah Dorpinghaus.
For more information, please see Coal, Camps and Railroads: Digitizing Primary Sources on Appalachian Economic Development.