Former Pitt Instructor Georgia Holmberg Encourages Archival Research through Giving

Georgia McKee Holmberg (Left) with University Library System Director Kornelia Tancheva
Georgia McKee Holmberg (Left) with University Library System Director Kornelia Tancheva

The library felt like a second home for Dr. Georgia McKee Holmberg (A&S ‘69G, ‘79PhD) and her late husband James (A&S ‘70G, ‘81PhD).

“We were always library people,” remembers Georgia who, like James, came to Pitt to earn a graduate degree in history. “That’s where the books were; that’s where the good stuff was. So I thought that was a good place to make an impact through my donation.”

Her commitment comes in three parts: the donation of her family archives, an annual contribution to support an ongoing undergraduate archival research program, and a gift annuity that will endow the James and Georgia Holmberg Award.

Georgia’s family came to western Pennsylvania in the 1840s. As the child most interested in history, the collected material—including the archives of a business started by her father and uncle—fell to Georgia to maintain. All of these materials will be handed over to the University of Pittsburgh Library System at some point in the future.

Her ongoing annual gift will be used to support the Archival Scholars Research Awards (ASRA) program, which is a joint effort of the University Library System (ULS) and the Office of Undergraduate Research. Through the program, up to ten undergraduates each year are awarded a stipend to undertake a research project using primary source material in the various archival and special collections held by the ULS. 

“Archival materials add to the storehouse of knowledge,” Georgia said of the vast collections held by Pitt. “But only if we will preserve and study them.”

“Archival materials add to the storehouse of knowledge”
- Georgia McKee Holmberg

Georgia’s third gift could be among the most impactful. A gift annuity is an investment made with a charitable organization—in this case the University of Pittsburgh—that makes an annual payment to the donor or other designee. At the time of the designee’s death, the remaining funds are available for use by the charity. Georgia’s gift will be earmarked for archival scholar awards for researchers who want to conduct deep scholarly investigations into the library’s primary source collections.

“I hope we are flooded with scholar requests,” Ed Galloway, Associate University Librarian, Archives & Special Collections, said. Researchers at times will spend weeks or even months working through hundreds of boxes of materials as they investigate an event, person, or period of history. “She will permit so many individuals to come and do some serious investigation while providing the necessary support to house and feed themselves while they are here.”

Special collections and archives at Pitt range from the papers of politicians such as Dick Thornburgh, who was Pennsylvania Governor at the time of the Three Mile Island incident, to industrialist Henry Clay Frick and pioneering transplant surgeon Dr. Thomas Starzl.

“Jim and I both taught at Pitt, were both students at Pitt, and we spent so many hours in Hillman Library, making a gift to the University, and specifically the University Library System, just seemed like the right thing to do,” Georgia said.

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