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Records from coal mining industry signed over for preservation

A room full of archives will be preserved at Earth Conservancy
Aimee Dilger
A room full of archives will be preserved at Earth Conservancy.

Industrial Archives and Library acquired four miles of records on Wednesday.

The historic preservation company in Bethlehem is now the owner of a huge chunk of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite mining history.

Archivists have brushed off the coal dust from those records for the past year. They’re tucked away in almost every corner of Earth Conservancy’s headquarters in Ashley.

"With this agreement, these records will be carefully preserved and available to the public for research for many years to come," said Terry Ostrowski, president and CEO of Earth Conservancy.

The nonprofit formed in the 90s from the sale of the former Glen Alden and Blue Coal Companies, one of the largest coal mining operations in the region. Earth Conservancy acquired all of the company's land and records, which date back to the late 1800s.

Industrial Archives will continue to work on the records in Ashley. The maps, drawings, corporate business records, correspondences, contracts, legal documents, employee records and other items will eventually live in temperature controlled rooms in Bethlehem. Nick Zmijewski, archivist with Industrial Archives & Library, estimates it will take 10 years to preserve everything.

"We're doing the work here so that it's accessible as soon as it leaves this facility, to anyone that wants to research it," he said.

Industrial Archive already has an online catalog of the items documented so far.

"That's really what we see our mission here is to reconnect people with documents that give them their history," said Zmijewski.

Earth Conservancy gifted the documents to Industrial Archives. It’s the second largest archive that the company owns, the first being from Bethlehem Steel.

“People get concerned that they'll disappear, you never get a chance to see them," said Steve Donches, founder of Industrial Archives. "We know where our responsibility is and the mission to collect, observe, preserve and make available for education and research.”

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org
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