Wilkes University Awarded Historic Preservation Grant

by Web Services
John Wilkes Statue

Wilkes University was recently awarded a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for the preservation and digitization of 1972 Agnes Flood related material. The project seeks to highlight the efforts of the Wilkes community during and after the 1972 Agnes Flood. 

This project, which will be overseen by Suzanna Calev, archivist and public services librarian in Wilkes University’s Farley Library, will process Francis J. Michelini Papers from 1970-1975 and the Flood Recovery Task Force Inc. records. Michelini served as Wilkes’ second president during the historic 1972 flooding. The project will digitize 378 photographic negatives, one audio tape of Richard Nixon’s visit to Wilkes College campus in 1972, as well as one film reel of Francis J. Michelini’s 1970 presidential inauguration. The material was collected from Michelini’s estate. It began with an oral history project on the flooding conducted by Calev with Michelini and his family prior to his passing in 2019. 

The $4,839.85 grant includes money for supplies and outsourcing digitization to Backstage Works and Media Preserve, LLC. This work is expected to be completed in summer 2021 and will be used to showcase exhibits for the 50th anniversary of the flood in June 2022.

“To preserve material long-term, you need archival boxes and acid-free folders,” said Calev. “A lot of this cost can get expensive, so I really wanted to preserve [Michelini’s] materials and really give it justice.” 

Calev is the first officially trained archivist and public services librarian at Wilkes University. She applied for the grant in order to aid research on the flood’s devastation as well as the unprecedented recovery efforts of the Northeastern Pennsylvania community. This research will be used by those studying disaster planning in urban communities. Emphasis will be placed on Max Rosenn, United States Circuit Judge, and his actions, which helped to rebuild the Wilkes-Barre community following the flood. 

“In general, this region has a lot of hidden, uncovered history,” said Calev. “I really want to make it more accessible, and have people take pride in this area.”

 The Wilkes University Archives was founded in 2005 by Harold Cox, professor emeritus and Wilkes University historian, and is dedicated to providing access to historical collections that highlight Wilkes institutional history as well as the Wyoming Valley region.  The materials are located in the Harold Cox Archives Room on the third floor of the Farley Library, 84 West South Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA.

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