University of Pittsburgh
January 12, 2009

Pitt's University Library System Receives Funds to Preserve And Make Accessible Historic Mining Maps

Project is a joint venture of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Interior, and CONSOL Energy, Inc.

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-A public/private pledge of $200,000 will help catalog and preserve a University of Pittsburgh collection of area mining maps that date back to the 1850s. The collaborative effort, called the CONSOL Energy Mine Map Preservation Project, is designed to increase access to these valuable documents, which could impact mining safety, operations, land reclamation, development, and research.

The commitment represents a partnership in funding with CONSOL Energy Inc., the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP), and the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining (OSM). CONSOL Energy has pledged $100,000; PA-DEP, $75,000; and OSM, $25,000.

"That the Department of Environmental Protection, the Office of Surface Mining, and CONSOL Energy have joined forces to support this endeavor is clear recognition of just how important the project is," said Rush Miller, Hillman University Librarian and director of the University Library System (ULS). "Our mining maps cover an enormous region in Southwestern Pennsylvania-heavily urban areas as well as rural communities. Together, we will work in collaborative ways to ensure that our collection is accessible to all."

In 2004, CONSOL Energy donated a vast collection of mining maps, records, survey books, photographs, and published materials to the ULS. The bulk of the CONSOL Energy Mining Archives dates from the 1890s through the first half of the 20th century. There are more than 8,000 individual map sheets, the earliest one from 1854, as well as coal mine artifacts and other historical items.

Pitt preservationists and archivists are working on the initial phase of the CONSOL Energy Mine Map Preservation Project. Some of the maps, which can measure up to 30 feet by 5 feet, have been rolled up for more than a century. They must first be placed into a humidity dome so the paper fibers can absorb moisture, thus preventing cracking. Once the map is able to be unrolled, the conservators work to remove coal dust and other grime from the map's surface. After the maps are properly conserved, they are transferred to the OSM in Greentree for digitization. Pitt archivists will create information about each map that then will be entered into a database-the Pennsylvania Historical Underground Mine Maps Inventory System (PHUMMIS). That part of the project is managed by PA-DEP.

"This project is important not only in terms of historical and artistic value, but also in terms of determining the location of these underground workings for the sage development of numerous surface structures or adjacent mining operation," added Peter Lilly, president of CONSOL Energy-Coal Group.

"We are making these historic documents available for a range of purposes-from strengthening Pennsylvania's mine safety and mine-subsidence programs to helping municipal planners and developers locate mine voids and choose stable sites for new economic development opportunities," said PA-DEP acting-secretary John Hanger.

"These maps are not only historically significant, they also serve as vital sources of information to improve public safety, protect the environment, safeguard active miners, improve economic development, and more," said Thomas Shope, director of OSM's Appalachian Region, adding that OSM has provided more than $1 million to 32 underground mine mapping projects in 15 coalfield states since 2005.

"All are projects where we partner with state, industry and/or academia to fulfill our goal of acquiring, preserving, archiving, and making abandoned underground coal mine maps generally available before they are lost forever," said Shope.

Additional information on the CONSOL Energy Mine Map Preservation Project is available at