Amy Regan, JAHA historian

Amy Regan, Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s historian, stands in the library archive room at the Johnstown Flood Museum. July 8, 2020.

Amy Regan has taken her passion for history and turned it into a career.

“It’s fascinating to learn all about the history around you,” the 26-year-old Johnstown resident said. “Just walking through downtown Johnstown, there’s history all around. There are so many people who came before you in this town and you are a part of this history. It’s great to have an appreciation for it, especially in a town that is rich with it.”

Regan, a 2012 graduate of Westmont Hilltop High School, recently was named Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s historian. In the role, she is responsible for managing JAHA’s collection and archives, its displays of artifacts and exhibits, and contributing to historical programming and events.

Prior to the accepting the position, she worked for over a year in JAHA’s Johnstown Children’s Museum and Heritage Discovery Center.

“I started as a children’s museum staffer as a way to get involved with JAHA and the museum field,” Regan said.

“I ended up absolutely loving the Johnstown Children’s Museum. It is very dear to me. It’s such a great place, and I had fun teaching kids some history.”

She said when JAHA’s curator left to accept another post out of town, there was an opening.

“Filling a job during a pandemic is difficult, but I know JAHA as an organization and was able to take over some of the curatorial responsibilities, but I am the historian,” Regan said. 

‘Doing the inventory’

Currently, she is organizing JAHA’s objects collection, which encompass a wide range of items from the region’s history.

“I’m doing the inventory of our clothing and I’m having a lot of fun with that,” Regan said.

“It’s a lot of the clothing you would see in old pictures – beautiful capes and cloaks, silk fans and Army uniforms – and I’m going through and making sure we know exactly where these things are, giving us a permanent locator.”

After the inventory is completed she will begin cataloging the objects.

“I’ll be taking their measurements, writing full descriptions and making sure everything is searchable,” Regan said. 

She said many of these objects in the collection have never been seen by the public.

“Hopefully, we can start doing some smaller exhibits based off of some of the items we have and fill up the three rooms on the second floor in the Heritage Discovery Center,” Regan said. “It would be a great way to show off some really awesome stuff. It’s just fun to look.”

She said the items need to be shown in order to continue to tell the story of Johnstown.

“Johnstown has such a rich history and I don’t know that many people, even this area, fully grasp that,” Regan said.

“It’s not just the floods – that’s what we’re most known for – but we have amazing industry history as well.”

She also plans to offer historical programs and workshops for the public. 

Education, research

Regan will present two upcoming armchair tours, yet to be scheduled, of the Wagner-Ritter House on Broad Street in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

“We can’t go the Wagner-Ritter House because it is too small for social distancing, and we can’t use modern-day cleaners on the artifacts,” she said. “So we’ll be in the garden and I’ll be giving an oral history on the house and family.”

In addition, she’s planning to present children’s programming at the Wagner-Ritter House.

“We’re looking to play some old-fashioned games like marbles and pick-up sticks,” Regan said. “In 1991, there was an archaeological dig at the house so we’re hoping to incorporate that aspect into it.” 

As historian, she also fields questions from individuals.

“It might be a research request or a question from someone who saw something on our website,” Regan said.

“Recently, I got a request from a man who was looking for a specific mine and I took a deep dive into it and found that needle in the haystack.”

Anyone who has a question can email Regan at aregan@jaha.org.

“Research requests do take some time so we have put in place a pay schedule, but some I can answer kind of quickly if it’s basic Johnstown knowledge,” she said.

Regan graduated summa cum laude from Pitt-Johnstown with a bachelor’s degree in history, and received her master’s degree with merit in history from The University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

Recommended for you