PORTSMOUTH-Shawnee State University’s Center for Public History has received over $210,000 to assist the Appalachian Underground Railroad Heritage Tourism Initiative. As part of $1.5 million awarded from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) POWER – Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization – Initiative, the project is part of a major federal investment in historic preservation and cultural heritage tourism for Ohio River counties in the tri-state region. The project will be led by Lawrence Economic Development Corporation and will include collaborations with partners across nine counties in the region.
“We join the Appalachian Regional Commission and our community partners in sharing the excitement of this announcement,” SSU Director of the Center for Public History, Dr. Andrew Feight said. “Over the next three years, the SSU Center for Public History will be leading the effort to research and nominate twenty-seven Underground Railroad historical sites to be listed on the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom.”
ARC is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and thirteen state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. Their mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia. The ARC POWER initiative directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachian communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.
“The current version of the Shawnee State University strategic plan recognizes the value of diversity and inclusion,” SSU President Jeff Bauer said. “This project aligns with those efforts and takes advantage of investments in the SSU Center for Public History. We look forward to sharing the results of this project with the campus and broader community.”
President Bauer also noted that SSU is committing over $71,500 of in-kind and planned match support to aid the Appalachian Freedom Heritage Tourism Initiative while working with the project’s partners to assist in recruiting participants for workforce development and promoting project-sponsored trainings.
“This is a major investment in historic preservation and cultural heritage tourism for Ohio River counties in the tri-state region of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia,” said Dr. Feight. “And it is a great opportunity for students at Shawnee State University and Marshall University – one of our project partners – to get hands-on experience assisting with the research.”
The mission of the Center for Public History at SSU is to advance the academic field of public history while providing SSU students with hands-on experience working on real work projects and helping preserve the Portsmouth area’s history for generations to come. Focusing on key public history initiatives to preserve and promote local history and cultural heritage tourism, the Center has already served the public through the development of the Scioto Historical mobile app and website project, the Historic Portsmouth Newspaper Digitization Project, the Ohio Speaker Vern Riffe Collection Project, and as host of Ohio History Service Corps (AmeriCorps) program.
For more information on the Center for Public History at Shawnee State University, visit www.shawnee.edu/center-public-history.