When rummaging around the attic space of her family's 1860s home in Titusville, Rhonda Clark looked closely at what appeared to be a pile of old window shades, but discovered one was actually a large wall map of Warren County, dating from the year 1900.
The map had some water damage and brittleness, but offered a wealth of potential information, such as locations of schools and railroads at the turn of the century. Dr. Clark, an active member of the Titusville Historical Society, knew the map had great historic value to the right owner. She decided the map belonged in Warren County, if the historical society or library did not already own it.
In fact, only a few copies of this map are recorded in library catalogs in the US, including one at the Library of Congress that eventually will be provided digitally through their site.
Amanda Snyder, a graduate student Clarion University MSLS program; Marti Swanson, reference assistant at Warren Public Library; James Maccaferri, associate professor of library science at Clarion University; Penny Wolbolddt, reference librarian at Warren Public Library; Rhonda Clark, assistant professor of library science at Clarion University.
"These maps provide all sorts of interesting insights into the past," said Clark. "They give us a snapshot of a region at a particular time, including the locations of landmarks and railroad lines that may no longer exist."
Clark took the map to the Library Science Department of Clarion University, where she teaches. Her colleague, Dr. James Maccaferri, took on the map as a preservation teaching project and oversaw student work to clean and do basic repairs on it. Dr.Maccaferri noted he is always looking for projects of this kind, "since students appreciate the opportunity for authentic learning that they present and because they are such excellent vehicles for promoting the university's programs to the community."
Amanda Snyder, a graduate student in the MSLS program at Clarion, spent dozens of hours painstakingly piecing bits of the map that were loose and cleaning the entire surface. Snyder reported that working on the map provided her "great practical experience in preservation" and " increased her interest in archives."
Once the map had been cleaned and mended, the public library in Warren was contacted. Reference librarian Penny Wolboldt was delighted at being offered the map for the library's local history collection. The Warren Public Library answers thousands of reference requests and questions a year dealing with genealogy and local history. The map promises to provide valuable information to assist in this work.
Wolbolt, a long-time reference librarian working with the Pennsylvania Collection at Warren Public Library wrote, "We want to thank all of you for your generosity, for your conservation efforts and for this wonderful gift to the people of Warren. It is especially exciting that the wall size Official Map of Warren County, Pennsylvania was compiled and published by N. B. Brakenridge in Warren, Pennsylvania in 1900. The map shows county and court officers names, elevations, turnpikes, post offices, railroad stations, schools, township boundaries, towns, roads, streams, oil, and gas information, and is printed in 3 colors. One of the most desirable qualities of this map is the notation of the County's landowners, providing a record of who owned land, where they resided, and an outline of their tract(s). These wall maps are exceptionally rare, and very useful for research."
It is not known exactly how and why the map was in the home in Titusville. The owner in 1900, Samuel Maxwell, may have needed information on forest lands in Warren County to support his work in the Titusville tannery. The Chase-Maxwell House on Main Street in Titusville was extensively remodeled by Chase in 1895 and was owned by his family until 1912.