History conference focuses on Wilkes-Barre’s role

Amanda Stickles, Staff Writer

Wilkes University will be hosting the Wyoming Valley History Project Conference for the second year in a row, with the theme being “The History of Wilkes-Barre as a Small City in Pennsylvania.”

The conference will be held on April 12 from 9 a.m. to noon in Breiseth Hall, Room 107. The event features presentations and panels by Wilkes faculty, students and community historians.

It is a way for the community to get together and talk about something historical and interesting about Wyoming Valley.

A student and faculty panel will be led in a discussion of Wilkes-Barre as urban history by Diane Wenger and John Hepp, who are both Wilkes associate professors and co-chairs of the global history and language department.

Wilkes-Barre historians will talk about how what happened in Wilkes-Barre over 200 years ago parallels what happened in other small cities, especially in Pennsylvania.

The historians that are experts about local history know exactly when a building was built, and exactly which architect and engineer worked on it.

“I learn a great deal from the historian experts; take the Weckesser Hall for example, the design of the building was done by the same architect that designed a mansion in New York City,” Hepp said.

“Wilkes-Barre in a way has a little part of New York City here, and by taking that connection it makes the story behind the building more interesting and makes you want to learn more about the building,” Hepp stated.

Travis Kellar of The Times-Leader will be the keynote speaker, talking about a journalistic approach to local history. Kellar brings a different perspective to the story since he is not from the area. He will discuss his experiences as a history reporter, what he learned from his experiences and follow with questions and answers to what he discussed.

The goal of the conference is to get scholars talking about other cities in Pennsylvania and the local historians to discuss about Wilkes-Barre history.

“During the conference it is interesting to learn how the historians got their jobs and the skills they use. It also helps us as teachers to help our students as they go looking for jobs in that area and just being able to exchange ideas in general,” Wenger said.

Hepp and Mark Stine, Wilkes associate professor and chair of the Communications Studies Department, will be ending the event with film clips and a discussion of a documentary on the 125th anniversary of the Osterhout Free Library. It is a way for the people to get talking about the Osterhout Library and what the library means to Wilkes-Barre.