Preserving the story of American freedom

Oct 10, 2014

America’s history is a patchwork of individual struggles for freedom and civil rights – struggles that come together to form the values we hold dear today. That story is being preserved today by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP). Its Preserving American Freedom project has restored and digitized 50 documents shaping the evolution of American freedoms. The project was funded by Bank of America, as part of a broader effort to preserve art and artifacts critical to cultures around the world.

“The Preserving American Freedom site gives students and teachers access to documents that shed new light on complex periods from our nation’s history,” said Page Talbott, President and CEO of HSP. “We’re grateful to Bank of America for supporting this important project.”

The documents span centuries, from 1655 to 1978, and include a draft of the United States Constitution, a deed between William Penn and the Delaware Indians, letters written by women’s suffragette Dora Kelly Lewis and dozens more. HSP preserved these documents for future generations and annotated them with essays from Eric Foner and other scholars. They also developed a web-based curriculum for educators. In combination, these efforts have created a remarkable digital resource for 21st century students and history buffs alike.

To help teachers introduce Preserving American Freedom into their classrooms, HSP has also created a series of short podcasts. These podcasts include interviews with historians and guidelines for meeting Common Core standards with the website.

“HSP has put together an impressive collection of documents that give a rare glimpse into the ever-evolving concept of freedom in America,” said Thomas Woodward, Pennsylvania president, Bank of America. “"This was a unique opportunity, not only to preserve these documents for future generations, but also to ensure access for all."

Historical Society of PA
Digitizing history

A member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania conservation lab restores the binding on a document being digitally restored

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Preserving History
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Many of these historically important documents are fragile, and had to be restored physically before being digitized for the website

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Emancipation Proclamation
Digitizing history

One document on the Preserving American History site is a broadside reprinting of the Emancipation Proclamation

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The Star-Spangled Banner 1840 copy
Digitizing history

"The Star-Spangled Banner" is arguably more symbolic of America's independence than any other document in the collection

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United States Constitution 2nd Manuscript
Digitizing history

An early draft of the Constitution, by James Wilson, shows students and scholars how the document came together

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Open Location
Open How we're involved
The Preserving American Freedom site gives students and teachers access to documents that shed new light on complex periods from our nation’s history.

Page Talbott
President and CEO of HSP

History & heritage