JMU students plan to ‘harvest’ Valley’s religious history

The Shenandoah Valley History Harvest, a specialized event patterned on the popular “Antiques Roadshow,” is coming to Harrisonburg.

James Madison University history students are organizing the April 14 event to “harvest” – digitally scan or photograph – historical religious items with connections to Rockingham, Augusta, Page and Shenandoah counties. Professionals from Special Collections and the Center for Instructional Technology in Libraries and Educational Technologies are working with the students.

Borrowing a bit from the Public Broadcasting Service television program, the 35 students in Dr. Andrew Witmer’s Introduction to U.S. Religious History class are inviting people to bring their treasures to the East Campus Library’s fifth floor from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. There, the artifacts will be either scanned or photographed and eventually shared with the community through the JMU Libraries.

“The goal of our harvest is not to tell people what their documents and objects are worth, but to enrich the entire community by making digital copies of their treasures freely available to everyone,” said Witmer. “While ‘Antiques Roadshow’ estimates the monetary value of artifacts, we value every document and object that illuminates the religious history of the Shenandoah Valley.”

Although organizers of the History Harvest can only imagine the treasures people may dig out of their files and bookcases – or attics and basements, they offer a few examples of the types of artifacts they are seeking. People are welcome to bring their photographs, sermons, letters, journals, icons, service bulletins, records of baptisms and funerals, directories and other religious history items on the Shenandoah Valley to the harvest.

Dr. Warren Hofstra, a professor of history at Shenandoah University in Winchester, will speak about the religious history of the Shenandoah Valley at 11 a.m.  Admission to his presentation and the harvest is free.

For details about the History Harvest, check out

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