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Meet Jeremy Ammerman: Turning an interest in history into a PennDOT career

October 08, 2021 08:00 AM
By: Dave Thompson

​District 8's Jeremy Ammerman's fascination with history began at a very young age. As a child he spent time on his great-grandparents Bellefonte, PA farm, where he took interest in the old photographs displayed in the farmhouse, the 1800s-era farm buildings, and the family history discussed over a Sunday meal. 

"My family had a 250-acre farm they had settled in around 1865. We didn't live on the farm, but I spent time there as a kid," Jeremy said. "Sundays after church we always had a brunch at the farm and there were 35 or 40 people. I'd hear stories, look at photos – that sparked my interest." 

While his interest in history never waned, after graduating from Bellefonte High School Jeremy decided to study computer engineering at Penn State University's York campus. He continued his studies at the university's main campus, but after two years of computer engineering, Jeremy decided he wanted to take a completely different path – he changed his major to History with a minor in American Studies. He graduated with a degree in history in 2005. 

"After graduating I was trying to figure out what to do with this wonderful piece of paper," Jeremy said. "I decided to get a master's degree, hoping it would open up doors." Jeremy attended Shippensburg University and received his master's degree after a year and a half. 

As a graduate student he worked for Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and interned at PennDOT evaluating historic features of old farmsteads. He worked as a freelance consultant and worked in northwest Pennsylvania evaluating the historic features of 1,500 farms.

He then took a flood recovery position with FEMA/HUD historic preservation office reviewing and assessing flood-damaged property and structures.

This path eventually led him to a full-time job at PennDOT, where he was hired 11 years ago. He serves as a historic preservation specialist.  

He works to mitigate the impacts of PennDOT construction projects on historical resources. In this capacity, for example, he assisted Elizabethtown University in developing a walking tour of historic downtown Elizabethtown as part of the mitigation of a PennDOT bridge project. 

Jeremy said his past experience – especially when it comes to agricultural resources – is helpful in his work with the department. He is often the go-to person when questions arise statewide about historic agricultural resources. 

Some of the gratifying things about his job entail finding obscure historical oddities in out-of-the-way places – a stone turnpike marker, an old cemetery, unique architecture, or an old out-of-the-way motor lodge invisible to most passersby. 

"I do love what I do," he said. "Most people don't associate the department with historic resources or the preservation of historic resources. Every day I come to work I don't know what piece of material culture I'm going to interact with – it could be a building or something as simple as a fork or a bone – something left behind by a previous culture that tells a story."

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