Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Arlen Specter collection heading west

The archives of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter are heading west.

Arlen Specter collection heading west

Arlen Specter campaigns at Citizens Bank Park as he runs for re-election in the Democratic primary in 2010. (AP File Photo)
Arlen Specter campaigns at Citizens Bank Park as he runs for re-election in the Democratic primary in 2010. (AP File Photo)

The archives of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter are heading west.

Philadelphia University and the University of Pittsburgh will jointly manage and provide access to the archives, Philadelphia University announced Monday morning.

The collection is part of the Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy at Philadelphia University. Specter had donated his archive spanning 50 years of public service to Philadelphia University in December 2010 and the university was using state funding to help renovate a building on campus for its display.

Under the new agreement, Pitt’s library system will organize and manage the collection for the next four years and store it for 30 years.

Philadelphia University retains ownership, and the universities will collaborate on educational programming related to the archive and access to it by students, researchers and the general public, the university said.

The agreement will allow people at opposite ends of Pennsylvania to have access to the vast collection, the university said.

The Specter collection includes more than 2,700 boxes of papers, photographs, audio and video materials and memorabilia. Among the items are historic documents on major events in modern U.S. history, such as:

* The Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

* Specter's crossing party lines to become the only Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.

The first exhibition on the Warren Commission’s report will open at Philadelphia University in October and run through March 2014, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22.

“The Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy will be enriched by this new initiative between Philadelphia University and the University of Pittsburgh,” Philadelphia University President Stephen Spinelli Jr. said in a prepared statement. “I am particularly grateful to Elsie Hillman, a prominent political and philanthropic leader in Pennsylvania, for her efforts to initiate and promote this beneficial partnership and for her philanthropic support of the Arlen Specter Center.”

Specter died of cancer last October. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005, but continued working full-time and subsequently wrote a book about his successful battle.

Specter was first elected to represent Pennsylvania in 1980. A longtime moderate Republican, he has supported of abortion rights, gay rights, and funding for stem-cell research, causing him to clash with party conservatives.

From 1963 to 1964, he was assistant counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, where he promulgated the single-bullet theory.

He took the spotlight in 1991 for his blistering interrogation of former law professor Anita Hill, who had accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

And he gained notoriety in 2009 when he switched to the Democratic Party and later lost a bid for reelection to his sixth term.

With the help of $4 million in state funding, the university is renovating its historic Roxboro House for the library. Specter, who lived nearby the university in East Falls, had planned to have an office there and the university had hoped he would lecture at the school.

Construction on the Roxboro House began in December and is scheduled to be completed by February 2014, the university said.

The full collection will be archived and housed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center, 7500 Thomas Blvd., Point Breeze, three miles from the Pittsburgh campus.

In a press release, the universities noted that Pitt's University Library System has a history of archiving and managing collections of important elected officials who graduated from Pitt. They include Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania and former U.S. attorney general; the late civil rights proponent K. Leroy Irvis, who in 1977 became the first African American speaker of the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania; and the late U.S. congressman John P. Murtha.

 

Susan Snyder
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Susan Snyder
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