Environmental Conference 2014

This Conference ended October, 2014 
The Donora Historical Society, in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh and California University of Pennsylvania, will be holding our second annual Environmental Conference on Digital Storytelling.  
Wednesday - October 29, 2014
TIME:             9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
                       Registration starts at 8:00 a.m.
                       Museum hours - 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
VENUE:         Donora Borough Building
                       603 Meldon Avenue
                       Donora, PA 15033
                       Corner of SIxth Street and Meldon Avenue - entrance is on Sixth Street up the ramp
AUDIENCE:   High School, middle school and college students
                       Interested citizens and the general public
RSVP:            Please call ahead to RSVP.  You can also order a lunch for $8.00 at the same time
PARKING:     Parking is free on McKean Avenue - the street above Meldon Avenue
LUNCH:         You are welcome to bring your own lunch or snacks, or you can order one of three selections
                       during your RSVP (see menu below.)  See the attached registration form for your menu selection.
                       If you show up without an RSVP, your lunch will be limited to pizza, snacks or your own lunch.
SNACKS:       Drinks and snacks will be available during the duration.
QUESTIONS: Please call with any additional questions

The centerpiece of this year's conference will be a poem written by Guenter Kunert (pictured on the left) on Donora's 1948 Smog event titled, "The Song of a Small Town."  Written in Germany in 1950 and inspired by a Life Magazine article, the then twenty-one year-old Kunert was just finding his voice as one of Germany's most influential and versatile writers and poets of the postwar era.  For him, what took place in Donora in 1948 paralleled his struggles of surviving WWII as a young German-Jew and what was taking shape politically in Berlin at that time.
Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Manfred Keune (pronounced coy-nuh - and pictured on the right), a retired Penn State University Professor of Languages.  Dr. Keune translated Mr. Kunert's poem from the original German version and sent it to the Historical Society several years ago.  And while we proudly displayed it in our 1948 Smog display at out museum, we admit that we did not truly understand its' impact and significance at the time.
In 2013, two students from Dr. Christina Fisanick's (pictured below on the left) Digital Storytelling class at California University of PA, took the translated poem (see below) and created an impressive video for their class project.  You can view the video and learn more about the students and the Digital Storytelling class on our 1948 Smog page.  The video enabled us to reconnect with Dr. Keune and Kunert's poem, thus inspiring us to make it the basis of this year's conference.  Dr. Fisanick, will be on hand to help lead the conference.
We will explore Kunert's poem applying a conceptual approach and connecting a variety of academic disciplines.  Dr. Keune calls the poem an "American Ballad," that will open us to the power of language in creating a meaningful academic and personal experience.  History is more meaningful when it becomes personal, when we are able to empathize and identify with ordinary people, caught up in overwhelming circumstances.  By taking this conceptual view of Kunert's poem we will be able to engage students emotionally as well as academically.  Multiple disciplines will find their place in the poem:  English, Literature, Language, History, Geography, Science, Environment, Weather, Business, Industry, Sociology, Psychology, Ethics, Philosophy:  the list is only limited by our imaginations.  The experience of Donora, in 1948, helps us connect realities.  Kunert connected his reality of the aftermath of WWII with that of the tragedy of Donora.  Similar realities, in varying degrees, continue to confront us today:  natural gas exploration, climate change, Greenhouse-gases, and more.  Like post war Europe, Donora in 1948 or the issues of today we are asked to make choices, and to realize each choice has a consequence.  Our hope is to take the emotion and poignancy of history and make a personal connection with students.
This year's Environmental Conference on Digital Storytelling will be introduced by Donora native Kim Moses (pictured on the right.)   Moses is a principal in Sander/Moses Productions with husband Ian Sander, where she has developed and served as executive producer, director, writer and creator of over 600 hours of prime-time television programming that includes the award winning CBS drama: "Ghost Whisperer," and current CBS series: "Reckless," among others. Moses will discuss her experiences of growing up in Donora, and the foundation that it gave her for her success in Hollywood.  Kim will open the conference with a video that she personally developed for us:  Kim Moses - Digital Storytelling. In 2016, Kim Moses would deliver the University of Southern California Annenberg Communications Ceremony Speech.

Also assisting with writing and storytelling instruction will be Oakmont resident Kathleen Shoop (pictured on the left.) Shoop's most recent Donora-related book project and second novel is titled "After the Fog" and is a work of Historical Fiction and tells the factual story of Donora's 1948 Smog through the eyes of fictitious characters. This novel won the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Silver Medal in 2012 and can be found on our site's Merchandise tab.

Donora native Jesse Francis will also assist by offering instruction on drawing and art, giving the student a well balanced appreciation for what it may take to put together a Digital Story.

The conference will be "hands-on" and technology will be supplied by California University of Pennsylvania and the Heinz History Center.
A printable handout of the 2014 Environmnetal Conference can br found by clicking on:

These are images and videos from our 2014 Environmental Conference:
Cal U Honors English students from Dr. Christina Fisanick's Digital Storytelling class help middle school and high school students get started with their digital stories on Donora's 1948 Smog.
Cal U Honors English students from Dr. Christina Fisanick's Digital Storytelling class explain the Digital Storytelling process to middle school and high school students.
The unique collaboration between the college students and the middle and high school students helped make the conference a success.  Below are a few examples of the videos that were created in a limited period of time:

The Donora Smog


Donora: Death Valley


Donora; A Town Once Lost, But Never Forgotten


“Song of a Small Town”
by Guenter Kunert, Berlin 1950
From the poetry collection: Wegschilder Und Mauerinschriften

(Translated by Dr. Manfred Keune)


There is a town called:

A town in the midst of a
valley in Pennsylvania with
smoking mills,
railroad yards,
steel foundries and
the big zinc works.
Inhabitants: thirteen thousand.

There is a town,

where grass is not green,
where on surrounding hills
farmers are few,
trying to live
like their sheep,
blackened by soot.
And when it is time to sleep,
when thirteen thousand
turn out their lights
they can see,
before they close their eyes,
swirling smoke under the ceilings
of their rooms,

There is a town,

where they all sleep
where there is no waking
thought of the day
that will be coming
from October to November
called Friday, in the town,
named Donora.
And all will be sleeping,
while the fog descends and
mixes with
the steam of zinc,
smoke of the mills,
the rail yards,
the foundries-
on the Friday, that will be coming,
on time, like death.

And for none of the nineteen,

who, at noon on Friday,
suffocated already,
will restlessness dye their dreams
the color of blood.
Not a breath over their sleep.
Or in that of the
four hundred others,
on whose lungs
this Friday will feast.

A Friday like a

rabid, plague-stricken
in a town,
where grass is not green,
which is named Donora.

Inhabitants: only thirteen thousand,


Your choice of bringing your own "brown bag" lunch or you can preorder at least 1 week ahead of time from the following menu items prepared by Anthony's Italiano: 
  • Pizza - 2 super slices - fresh dough made daily - topped with provolone and mozzarella cheese - includes drink - $8.00
  • Chicken Tender Strips - three pieces  served hot - homemade coleslaw - chips - and drink - $8.00
  • Smoked Ham and American Cheese Sandwich - served cold on a hoagie roll - chips - and drink - $8.00
Drinks choices will be limited to bottled water and Gatorade.
If you would like to order the morning of the conference your choice will be limited to the pizza lunch mentioned above.