University of Pittsburgh to help manage Specter's archives

More than 2,700 boxes of papers, photos, audio, video and memorabilia in collection

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The University of Pittsburgh -- in partnership with Philadelphia University -- is preparing to house and manage its biggest archival collection yet, the archive of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

The Arlen Specter Collection includes more than 2,700 boxes of papers, photos, audio, video and memorabilia, including documents from when he served as an aide to the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his efforts to get health care legislation passed in the Obama administration.

Pitt already has some experience with handling political collections. It has a collection of the papers of former Gov. Dick Thornburgh and is processing the papers of the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown.

The Specter collection is twice as large as either of those and the biggest of any of Pitt's archival collections of personal records, papers and other materials, said Michael Dabrishus, assistant university librarian.

"This is exciting," Mr. Dabrishus said.

In talking with staff Monday, he said, "You could see the excitement on people's faces, thinking about both the challenge as well as the interesting things that will come up certainly during the processing of this collection."

Mr. Specter died Oct. 14, 2012, at the age of 82. He served five terms in the U.S. Senate. He was a Republican until he switched to the Democratic Party in 2009, helping to pass President Barack Obama's health care law. He was defeated in the Democratic Party's Senate primary in 2010.

Mr. Specter, who lived near Philadelphia University, donated his collection to Philadelphia University in 2010, with the materials arriving in 2011, said Karen Albert, director of the Paul J. Gutman Library at Philadelphia University.

Philadelphia University has established the Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy, now at the Gutman Library.

A historic house, known as the Roxboro House near the campus, is being restored to become the permanent home of the Specter Center, likely about a year from now.

The center's first exhibit will be at the library, opening around Oct. 14 and running through April 15. It will focus on Mr. Specter's documents from his work with the Warren Commission. It is intended to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

Ms. Albert said private philanthropist Elsie Hillman was the link that connected the expertise of Pitt with Philadelphia University.

Ms. Albert said Pitt has "a specific expertise in managing and organizing and processing political papers and archives. ... It really helps us to have this expertise to know how to go through the papers and organize them and manage them."

Some of the documents may be digitized to make them more accessible.

The materials will be moved from a warehouse in Conshohocken, Montgomery County, to Pitt's Archives Service Center in Point Breeze.

Pitt's University Library System will organize and manage the collection for four years and store it for 30 years. Philadelphia University also will do archival work.

The two universities will work together on educational programming and helping students, researchers and the general public access it.

Philadelphia University will continue to own the archive.

education - neigh_city - state - pittsports

Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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