Specter Collection Comes To Pitt to be Archived

Mar 4, 2013

The senatorial archives of Arlen Specter will soon be housed at the University of Pittsburgh.

The 2,700 boxes of documents amassed by U.S. Senator Arlen Specter over his 30-year career in the Senate are coming to Pittsburgh to be archived. The papers currently reside at Philadelphia University but the school has reached an agreement with the University of Pittsburgh to take on the collection.

Philadelphia University has never worked with such a large collection so it began looking for a partner after Specter handed over the documents.

“Here at the University of Pittsburgh we have several large political collections that we are managing including the papers of former governor Dick Thornburgh and we are working on the [Congressman] John Murtha collection right now,” said Michael J. Dabrishus, Assistant University Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh.

Pitt also houses the K. Leroy Irvis collection and the papers collected by former U.S. Representative Jason Altmire.

Philadelphia University will officially retain ownership of the archive. Processing the collection will be a massive undertaking. Dabrishus expects it will take his team four years to fully process the materials.

“Going through each and every box, establishing what’s in a box…what the folder contents are all about, what the time frames are all about, what the subjects are all about,” said Dabrishus.

A “finding aid” will be created for the collection, which Dabrishus equates to a road map for researchers.

Along with the senatorial papers, the collection also includes documents from Specter’s time on the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Specter was an aide to the commission and has been linked closely to the creation of the lone-gunman and “single bullet” theories. 

A special exhibition using those papers is set to open in Philadelphia in October. It will run through April 15, 2014, which spans the 50th anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy assassination.

The Arlen Specter Collection will be archived and housed in the University of Pittsburgh’s Archives Service Center in Point Breeze and will be made available to researchers.

“Once we process portions of the collections we will roll out probably on an ongoing basis portions of the collections that can be deemed public, in other words available for researchers,” said Dabrishus.

Specter died October 14, 2012 after a short battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His 30 years in the U.S. Senate made him Pennsylvania’s longest serving U.S. Senator. Pitt said Specter donated his extensive archive, encompassing 50 years of public service, in December 2010, to Philadelphia University to establish the Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy.