Coal, Camps, and Railroads: Digitizing primary sources on Appalachian economic development

Grants and Contracts Details


The University of Kentucky Libraries seeks funding to digitize and make available 132 cubic feet, an expected 264,000 pages, of a nationally significant body of historical evidence. The selected portions of the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection focus on 189 years of critical economic development in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields from 1788 to 1976. The ten individual collections document the search for, extraction, and distribution of coal, oil, and natural gas resources in Appalachia. The records follow the creation of the railroads that brought these raw materials to industrial manufacturers and electrical power generators across the United States. The ten selected collections provide evidence of the company towns, their services, and the individual lives that grew up to sustain and make possible this economic development and struggle. The Appalachian materials are in high demand from researchers across the world; many of whom are unable to travel to Kentucky to access these key collections. In response to user demand, UK Libraries has developed an efficient and innovative system to mass digitize archival collections. Mass digitization will allow these records to be analyzed in a way that they never have before. Users will be able to connect online to the documents through collection guides or keyword searches; they will be able to digitally browse a folder as if they were sitting in our own research room. The Appalachian region, abundant with natural resources but also poverty, has characteristics and challenges that pertain to many areas of the world; past, present, and future. Online access to 264,000 pages documenting this cultural region will affect research in agriculture, poverty, transportation, tourism, manufacturing, coal mining, and stereotypes, in addition to revelations on issues of power, social inequity, class conflict, and environmental destruction.
Effective start/end date5/1/134/30/16


  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $139,596.00


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