Chris Catalfamo

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Chris loved history, and that love of history brought her to the Historical Society. After she received her doctorate in 19th century American History, she became an expert on Civil War clothing and material culture. She taught in the history department at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, made presentations at numerous conferences, and wrote monthly articles for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War which appeared in The Indiana Gazette.

She followed in the footsteps of the Historical Society's founder, Frances Strong Helman, with her love of local history. She uncovered intriguing stories about Indiana County's role in the Anti-Slavery Movement.

​She was committed to sharing her love of history and her ongoing search for historical insight. What made Chris so unique was her passion for sharing history in a way that captivated people.

When Chris moved to Indiana, she became intrigued with Indiana County's Underground Railroad. Chris' primary interest was in 19th century American history, with her chosen concentration for historical costuming from 1830-1865.

Chris was instrumental in forming The Indiana County Underground Railroad Project. She became Museum Chairperson and helped developed an exhibit at the IUP Museum on the Underground Railroad.

While in this role, she discovered in our collection the Jennie Mitchell scrapbook, which included a letter written by a young Anthony Hollingsworth, a freedom seeker who was helped to freedom by Jennie's father, Dr. Robert Mitchell. At the dedication of the first historical marker representing the Underground Railroad in Indiana County, Chris was able to get the Hollingsworth family to attend the dedication.

There were other projects too, such as restoring the Mitchell paintings, organizing public forums on historic preservation and community identity, hosting the Western Pennsylvania Underground Railroad Symposium in 2002, initiating the "Civil War Roundtable," and in 2003 serving as President of the Historical Society's Board of Directors. This was the year of the big move - the move from the Clark House to the Armory. It was her efforts that enabled funds to be raised for the new museum. When raising those funds, it was Chris' idea to offer members the opportunity to match Clarence's donations to the Society. It was also Chris who suggested to the County that Clarence be appointed the official County Historian. At Clarence's passing, she proposed to the Commissioners that Indiana County Heritage Day be set aside to honor our history each year on March 24, Clarence's birthday.

Chris stressed that our museum must be a community museum that embraces all of Indiana County, with public education being the central mission. Unfortunately, Chris passed away on January 12, 2013. However, her legacy lives on. As she often said, historians are never honored while they are with us; it takes perspective to recognize their contributions.

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