The business of a legislature is making laws. Using a business model, it can be said that laws are the inventory of a legislature. Extending the commercial model, one may argue that inventory protection is a modern-day imperative. If disasters were to strike select buildings in this Commonwealth, laws chronicling the passage of Pennsylvania from William Penn's days to the days of digits would sadly and irretrievably vanish.

In tandem with and complementing preservation is the principle of access. The frangible nature of centuries-old law volumes and their limited availability constrain access. Access to the laws by genealogists, scholars, students and persons with disabilities is facilitated by making the laws available on the World Wide Web in digital format.

Upon completion of the project, the Statutes at Large, Smith's Laws and Pamphlet Laws will be available to the public. Each collection derives from original sources or verified copies and was compiled and published under authority of the General Assembly. Together these collections disclose a continuum of active and superseded State law and public documents from the precolonial era, when William Penn provided an amending clause in the frame of government for his province, to the present, with enactments of recent sessions of the General Assembly.

Project goals

The goals of the project are to:

  • Create a permanent digital repository of the session laws of Pennsylvania by:
    • Capturing pages in image format.
    • Creating Portable Document Format (PDF) files with hidden text (OCR) from the image files.
    • Writing the image files and PDF files to compact discs.
    • Maintaining databases to provide keyword searching and other finding aids.
    • Transferring the data on the discs to microfilm.
    • Placing the master microfilm in secure, offsite, environmentally-controlled storage.
  • Extend the life of scarce, deteriorating volumes of the session laws and constitutions held in controlled circulation status by reducing the demand for physical access to the volumes.
  • Provide single-point, worldwide public access to the session laws via this Web site.


Sincere appreciation is expressed to the following entities and individuals:

  • Pennsylvania Senate Library.
  • State Library of Pennsylvania.
  • State Law Library of Pennsylvania.
  • Division of Records Administration and Image Services, Bureau of Archives and History of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
  • Joel Fishman, Ph.D., Duquesne University Center for Legal Information.
  • Joseph Sheridan, Applications Developer, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • Lee A. Singer, BFA.

Photo credits

Constituent images in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania collage are used with the permission of the following organizations:

  • National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park Library (Independence Hall).
  • The Architect of the Capitol, Washington, D.C. (William Penn with Native Americans).