Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
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Researching the People of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Millersville Students and Faculty Collaborate with the Community

What project at Millersville University involves everyone from German gypsies, William Penn and slaves from what is now Nigeria, to students and faculty in anthropology, history, music, art and communication/theatre?  If you guessed the Providence Project, which has been researching the people of what is today Lancaster County, you guessed correctly. The goal of the project is to create a series for television.

The founder of the project, MU’s Dr. Marlene Arnold, says more than 40 students – both undergraduate and graduate – and seven professors have been involved since the project’s inception in 2015.

“When we first started our research we thought we were going to cover Native Americans, African Americans, and Europeans over a 50-year time frame.  As we got into the project, we realized it would be better to show how five worlds converged in our region, beginning in the mid-to-late 1600s. This has pushed our research an additional 50 years earlier than our initial 1727-1777 period,” explains Arnold.

“Working on a multi-year project is a huge effort, and I appreciate the many ways Dr. Arnold has brought faculty and students into the collaboration. Creating a television series that would be produced locally would be an amazing experience for our media students. It is a unique learning opportunity,” says Dr. Stacey Irwin, communication and theatre.

Student/faculty projects include:

  • Dr. Philip Tacka, music, working with a student on Native American music in the 18th century in our region and how some individuals “owned” a particular tune that was their own personal melody.
  • Becky McDonah, art and design, working with students to design metal pendants for the project. Art students will cast those pendants in the fall.
  • Dr. Stacey Irwin, communication, will help with a “sizzle reel,” which is essentially a video that is used to create excitement and shop the series around to potential producers.
  • Others working on the project include Dr. Tanya Kevorkian, history; Tatiana Pashkova-Balkenhol, library; and Dr. David Kriebel, anthropology.

“It is wonderful to see Pennsylvania’s colonial history come alive through collaborative and interdisciplinary research,” said Dr. Tanya Kevorkian.

The five worlds include Native People who were already here, people who came across the Atlantic from England and Ireland; the French Huguenots who escaped the upheaval and persecution in France; German speakers fleeing from a number of territories in the Holy Roman Empire and Switzerland; and both free people and slaves, from what is today southern Nigeria.

The Providence Project is a joint project of Millersville University and LancasterHistory.org. “Thomas Ryan, president and CEO of LancasterHistory.org, is seeking a more robust collaboration with MU involving more Millersville students doing research at LancasterHistory.org, as well as making presentations and potentially publishing papers in LancasterHistory.org outlets,” says Arnold. “We envision a strong ongoing student research program resulting from this MU-LHO Providence Project partnership.”

Additionally, Arnold says the Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation seeks to publish student work related to the history of health and healing prepared for the Providence Project. Currently six Millersville University students are interns at the foundation.

The research for the Providence Project is wrapping up and the first draft of the book manuscript should be completed by the end of the fall semester. Then, the team, including the students, will transition from writing to preproduction. Arnold and Irwin will lead the work on selecting the best material for a pilot. They are working with a Baltimore-based producer to refine the goals and objectives of the TV series, identify target markets and develop a distribution strategy to pitch the series to channels and streaming services.





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