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Juniata Initiates Local Historical Heritage Project

(Posted January 21, 2002)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Residents that have a specific or general interest in aspects of the history and culture of the seven-county area that comprises the Juniata Valley can take part in a new long-term historical and cultural heritage project, "Currents of the Juniata Valley," by attending a public meeting to introduce the project at 2:30 p.m., Jan 27 in the Faculty Lounge in Ellis College Center on the Juniata College campus.

Sponsored by Juniata College and the Westsylvania Heritage Corp., the project will present yearly slates of educational tours, lectures and events centering on topics relating to historical and cultural events in Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties. In addition, individuals with an interest in history will research and create tours or presentations relating to current and historical aspects of the Juniata Valley that can eventually be developed into heritage tours or tourism sites.

Those interested in participating will be asked to fill out a brief contact form and to identify the topics in which they are most interested.

"We are looking for volunteers and people with an interest in almost any aspect of local history," says Betty Ann Cherry, professor emerita of history at Juniata College and coordinator of the "Currents of the Juniata Valley" project. "Some of the events to come out of this may be staged every year and others may be a one-time event. In any case, we hope that people with knowledge of the deep and significant culture and history of the Juniata Valley will work with us to help tell the great story of this area."

The project's first event will coincide with Outdoor Heritage Days, a Westsylvania Heritage Corp. event scheduled for May 3 and 4 at the Huntingdon County Fairgrounds. Several walking tours of historical sites are being developed, as well as a storytelling and oral history session relating to significant events in the area's history.

"One of our retired faculty members told me that the Juniata River Valley is the least studied region of its size east of the Mississippi," says James Tuten, assistant provost at Juniata. "This project is a real opportunity to nurture research, preservation and appreciation for the historical story of the valley."

The programs initiated within the "Currents of the Juniata Valley" project will fall into one of four general categories.

--Making a Living: Topics within this category will include the development of commerce, including trading posts, trail towns and river towns. Industrial development from manual labor to manufacturing and the valley's wide-ranging agricultural heritage also will be addressed.

--Faith and Religion: The beliefs and community worship centers of towns and regions within the Juniata Valley played a major role in shaping the historical and cultural legacy of those communities -- influences that often still impact those communities today.

--Humans in the Environment: Early settlers into Pennsylvania saw a vastly different ecological environment than the current environment we now live in. This topic area will examine the consequences of how people interacted with the valley's environment over time. In addition, projects can address Pennsylvanian's awareness of the environment today and how human behavior affects environmental issues.

--Transportation and Communication: The networks of trails that led Native Americans and settlers across the state eventually developed into a circuit of waterways, roads, railways and airways that affected the economic and cultural development of communities in the Juniata Valley. How these avenues of travel were used to transport goods and develop lines of communication have still-relevant implications for today's Juniata Valley residents.

Within each of these general areas, or currents, projects can be developed or examined from four periods or perspectives: prehistory, colonial settlement, the age of industrial development and the present.

Projects within these areas can take a variety of forms, including research projects, lectures, site development, artifact collection and presentation, oral histories, recording folk traditions, driving and walking tours and development of on-line tours to accompany visitors to a physical site.

In case of inclement weather and the cancellation of the Jan. 27 meeting, an alternate date will be Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the same location. For those unable to attend the meeting, please contact Addie Muth, marketing coordinator for Currents, at (814) 641-3105, or Betty Ann Cherry at (814) 643-2226.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.