Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures, and Safety has received $95,000 in federal funding to continue its work of archiving, digitally recording, and geographically referencing historical coal mine maps.

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, has been a leading partner with IUP in supporting this project.

“I am pleased that Indiana University of Pennsylvania has received these funds to further research mine mapping and digitization,” Specter said. “Mine safety is of utmost importance to Pennsylvania and the nation, and this funding will enable IUP to produce and examine invaluable information on preventing and managing mine-related emergencies.”

“I am delighted to see continuing external funding for this most innovative multidisciplinary research initiative,” Dr. Tony Atwater, president of IUP, said. “A research center devoted to this endeavor is bearing fruit on many fronts. The additional funding will assist IUP in attaining a lead role in the area of mine map digitization and associated applied and research-based applications.”

The institute was founded at IUP in 2006. It is directed by Dr. John Benhart, professor and chairman of the Geography and Regional Planning Department, and codirected by Phil Zorich, director of IUP Libraries, and Dr. Lon Ferguson, professor and chairman of the Safety Sciences Department.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an on-line, searchable database of all of our digital mine maps that will help to improve the safety of coal mining in Pennsylvania by providing needed information about abandoned or unknown mines,” Benhart said. “Ultimately, we will be developing new mine safety protocols based on this information.”

Funding will be used for additional personnel, including graduate and undergraduate students, to continue scanning existing maps and developing databases.

The institute is also supported by funding from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

In 1998, IUP received the records of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Co. from Consol Energy. The donation included artifacts and files and the mine maps depicting the location of mines and coal seams throughout the region. Consol also provided financial support to help organize the collection. R&P Coal Co., in operation from 1891 to 1997, was purchased by Consol in 1998.

In 2005, IUP received a $125,000 Cruze digital camera from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety to digitize large-format mine maps.

At that time, IUP received a gift of $36,777 from Rosebud Mining Co. of Kittanning and a grant of $15,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to help organize and process the R&P collection at IUP.

In total, IUP has approximately 300 hard copy, large-format mine maps and some 500 digital mine maps in its collection and database, reflecting more than a century of Pennsylvania coal mining history.

In addition to supporting mine safety, community planning, emergency responders, and mine subsidence initiatives in the future, the institute is providing training and experience in the high-growth, high-demand geospatial field for geography and regional planning students, Benhart said.

“This project embodies what we should be doing at a public institution of higher learning: contributing to communities and regions while providing our students with opportunities to learn how concepts, science, and technology really work.”

Officials are planning for fall 2009 an exhibit at the University Museum titled “Pennsylvania Coal Culture, Featuring the R&P Coal Collection.”