Research Musings and Updates

I’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week.

I meant to write up a post last week after some exciting findings at the archives, however I realized I forgot to copy the files of all the items I had scanned into the computer there to my jump drive.

Although I could have gone ahead and written a post regardless, I wanted to reference some of the materials for a more detailed post so decided to wait until I had them copied to my computer.

This week got busy and so here I am, finally finding time today.

Last Friday was my most exciting day at the archives. I finally felt like I was getting somewhere in my research after a few visits of dead ends and frustration.

Although I feel very fortunate that I am able to get into the archives after hours, the negative side of that is not having any guidance. UMM’s archive is divided into two seconds–the history of UMM and the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Section area. I know the UMM section pretty well since those are the materials I work with as an student archives worker. However, since UMM was founded in 1960, those materials aren’t going to be be useful to me. It is the West Central Minnesota Historical Research Section area that I’m most interested in and it also happens to be the area that I know nothing about.

Well, I shouldn’t say that. Through my days there researching, I’ve gotten to know what’s there pretty well. I was basically told I could look through whatever I want to, so I’ve been rifling through a lot of materials at my leisure and having some hits but also a lot of misses.

My best finds have been in the WCSA yearbooks, particularly the 1919 yearbook.

The 1919 Moccasin (the title of the WCSA yearbook) is filled to the brim with so much information. It felt like the jackpot in really allowing me to gauge student feelings during this time period.

I had been getting really frustrated because the 1917 and 1918 yearbooks yielded nothing war-related. I was astounded that the students didn’t have anything to say about the war during those years when I’m sure it affected them quite a lot, at least indirectly, out here on the prairie. The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety was ruthless in promoting patriotism and in weeding out the supposed “traitors” throughout Minnesota in order to set them straight. The Non Partisan League–a well-known political organization that exhibited anti-war sentiments–was also really active out here in this section of Minnesota also. I would not be surprised if the Commission of Public Safety and the NPL butted heads out here on this side of the prairie.

Upon realizing that the Moccasin went to print in February, it made sense to me that the 1917 yearbook yielded no information about the war. War wasn’t declared until April, after all.

The 1918 yearbook though, puzzled me. Then again, as a college student, I’ve found it’s really easy to become disconnected to the outside world while focusing on my studies and such. Perhaps the WCSA students had a similar experience when the war was going on. Or maybe, they were too caught up in digesting all the changes that the war brought to them at home that they chose not to concentrate on it in the yearbook because it was just too much. Of course, this is all speculation and I’m not really sure either way.

What distinguished the 1919 yearbook from 1917 and 1918 was not only the content, but also the nature of that content. The 1919 yearbook had a really nice memorial to the WCSA students–past and present–who fought in the war, as well as a short history of what the WCSA students were up to during the war.

The majority of the content that I was interested in, though, focused on the the Spanish influenza. There were numerous references to how the influenza affected the student population–the influenza reached Western Minnesota in the fall of 1919, which pushed back the beginning of the semester; football season wasn’t able to happen that year, and it got the year off to a bit of jarring start for the WCSA students.

The most interesting part of the 1919 Moccasin, though, was an abundance of quips and cartoons that made light of the influenza.

We do this all the time today. A terrible thing happens and we use humor to help us cope with the horribleness. Well, the WCSA students were doing this too; responding to this terrible influenza epidemic in the aftermath of an extremely influential war with a humor that at first seemed a little out of place to me–until I remembered that humor can sometimes be an extremely effective way of coping.

Here are some examples:

1919 Flu comic 2

All on account of ‘fluenza



1919 quips

“Perhaps his nose doesn’t fit the mask”


1919 last will

“Earl Leaf….All the flu makes worn by us during the epidemic”

I love how these little quips and cartoons say so much about the WCSA students at the time. Then again, this might just be the sense of humor of the editors showing, but I do get the sense that the editors were made an effort to include all students in the yearbook in some way, shape or form. Regardless, it does give a glimpse into the way some of the students reacted to the influenza, at least.

Furthermore, in really delving into the content of this yearbook, I felt as if I got to know the WCSA class of 1919 a little bit more. My favorite party of history is those personal stories, and I was really able to get an idea of some of the student’s stories while going through this yearbook.

I still have a lot more to look through in the archives. I am currently sifting through oral histories; yesterday I found an oral history from a World War I veteran and I hope to find some more regarding the war during the home front.

I am eager to find more WCSA materials regarding the war, since that is what I realized I’m really interested in for this project. The campus archivist has a really great source that he intends to get to me one of these days, though he can’t seem to locate it at the moment. I really hope he does soon, since, from my understanding at least, it seems to be a collection of recollections from WCSA students during the war period.

I haven’t talked to Colm in a little bit, though I intend to sometime this weekend in order to get an idea of where he is at research-wise. Getting to the museum is still on my list of things to do, but I want to make sure I don’t go through anything he’s already looked through when I get there.

Next week I intend to dive further into the archives and hopefully the archivist will have a better idea of the whereabouts of that source by then!


Food for thought questions for Kennedy, Over Here, chapters 1-4

Think about the following questions as you read Kennedy’s first 4 chapters:

  • What were Wilson’s goals?  Why did he get involved?  What were his goals regarding government and mobilization?
  • What was the US’s role in the Great War?  What does Kennedy see as the nation’s contributions?  Weaknesses?
  • How would small towns have been affected?  Schools?  What are the impacts on rights and freedoms during the war?
  • What were the issues related to mobilization and conscription?  How did race, class, gender, immigration status, etc. play into those issues?
  • What is Progressivism and what role does it seem to have played in lead up to and mobilization for American involvement in the Great War?
  • What does Kennedy seem to think of Wilson?  Of Pershing and the AEF?
  • What was the impact of the war on US soldiers who served?

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

So I’ve been thinking.  Dangerous thing, that.

Since I’m doing the rural side of life in my neck of the woods in relation to World War I and several of my family members are current or former Norfolk Southern (Railroad) employees, I’m thinking it would be good to include some information in the site about the NS.

Last night whilst ruminating on the subject, I came across that the Teamsters Labor Union, which is one of the many unions available to NS employees has an office in downtown Asheville.  I’m thinking I may have to give them a call and make a pit stop there soon.

So, the killing two birds with one stone.  I stopped by Special Collections here at my home campus library again today and made it into some of the old local papers.  Talk about a treasure trove of primary source material!  Holy cow!  It was fantastic.  I found some of the most awesome information, old ads from the Great War time period, bits and pieces of articles from the day, and low and behold, an entire page article with a full page of photographs of troops from Asheville.  Jackpot!  I was so excited that I dragged both Gene and Colin from their desks to show them my find, and they graciously came and looked at the material (something they probably already knew was there, but they did indulge my childlike excitement with praise nonetheless).  I’m already indebted to them both.

I made a list of the primary source finds and since I’d devoted almost my entire study period today to the work for this class, I figured might as well keep the ball rolling, so I just completed my first timeline.  I’m going to try and copy and paste the link here on the blog, and I don’t know how it will look at first, but I thought I’d give posting it a shot.

I did my timeline on a two week span last summer where I went to Scotland and what I saw each day.  Basic and simple, but I think it filled the requirement of playing around with the technology to see what I could do with it.

Incidentally, I had a blog for my Scotland trip last summer, and if anyone’s interested in taking a look at it and my Scotland photos, you can access it via

Without further ado (and I hope this works- fingers crossed), here’s my timeline (I think).

Day Two at the Archives

Yesterday Kana and I went to the Sarasota History Center as a team. Jeff LaHurd, the main historian, is still not back. Larry, the other historian, was not there yesterday either. This left us with the staff archaeologist. Because he isn’t too familiar with the historical archives, he let Kana and I explore on our own. We found boxes of complete issues of the Sarasota Times from the 1910s.

Immediately Kana and I began scanning any article from the newspapers that we found to be relevant. Just from these papers we were able to determine that, thus far, it seems like the main narrative on Sarasota’s home front was the development of the city itself. Articles celebrate the addition of roads, the city’s first golf course, and housing.

While we were scanning, the archaeologist brought us a collection of brochures advertising Sarasota. These were published by the Chamber of Commerce in 1914-5.

After two hours, Kana and I had barely finished scanning relevant articles from half of the Sarasota Times from 1916. We called it a day, leaving confident that there was much left for us to sift through.

Besides this trip, I stopped by the Historical Society of Sarasota. I asked the board whether or not they know of anyone who is related to someone who lived in Sarasota during the 1910s. They are meeting today and should get back to me soon!

Reporting For Duty: Call Field Command

Laura and I have been developing the Google Map feature for our website. Thankfully, Laura is technologically inclined which made the process much easier. I helped plot historical points of significant value. Laura discovered a ruler tool to more accurately measure the distance between locations. We encountered several learning curves such as learning how to save our progress. Laura and I overcame these obstacles. In addition to the maps, I took photos of the where the central command of Call Field Air Force Base was once located.



Above: The building houses the Tran star Ambulance Service along with a law firm and an engineering firm. During the operation of the airfield, this location served as the central command for the Call Field. The original building was torn down.
CallFieldRoadAbove: This street (now named “Call Field Road”) served as the central road through the airfield. Central Command was located to the left.

Hanger RowAbove: This photo was taken in front of the Trans Ambulance building facing Call Field Road. This residential area, identified by property records, is called University Park Boulevard. I am still searching when it was built however, based on conversations with archivists the neighborhood was likely built during the late 1940s and early 1950s. During the years of Call Field, the area along the road was occupied by the base’s airplane hangers.

Historical MarkerAbove: When facing the Trans Star Ambulance building, this historical marker is located to the left. (I apologize for the bad quality, I was not aware of the glare until later – I will replace this photo with a better version) The maker provides a brief overview of Call Field and the role Call Field served as a training facility for American pilots.

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff

The first of the three websites I chose to look at for the project was the Roy Rosenzweig Center’s Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution. As others have noted, the site’s aesthetics make it feel quite elderly, in internet terms, and the blank, red expanse that consumes most of the right side of the browser window on the site’s home page is awkward to the point of distraction, while the collage of portraits portraits taken from various paintings, political cartoons and the like of the era gives the appearance of cheapness. Compounding this awkward impression, at least in my estimation, are the hyperlinks labeled “Explore”, “Search” and “Browse”. Though each actually has a distinct function in using the site, the terms themselves are roughly synonyms of each other, and appear to betoken a certain lack of thought in word-choice. Looking through other sections of the site, the impression that more effort could have put in to its design and organisation continues, despite some very interesting material. The collection of images, for example, includes some striking items, but with photographs, political cartoons, portraits and propaganda pieces all jumbled together seemingly at random, navigating the contents can feel like a chore.

The second site I looked at was Stanford University’s Mapping the Republic of Letters. The home page embraces a rather spartan aesthetic, with fairly restrained use of red and dark grey over a background of light grey, the elaborate logos of the site’s study partners adding some visual interest to a clean, professional-looking presentation. What will immediately draw the eye of any visitor to the site, however, is the large and detailed “narrative panorama of the project” that occupies most of the upper portion of the home page. Credited to Michele Graffieti, depicting dozens of scholarly and intellectual figures from the last half millennium or so, from the Mexican nun Juana de la Cruz to Voltaire, Jeremy Bentham and numerous modern academics and their respective institutions. Accentuated with endless dotted lines tracing one figure or school to another over the course of history, the piece serves as a striking visualisation of the continuity of scholarship which the project proposes to map. Above and slightly to the right of the mural are links to other areas of the site, helpfully highlighted with red boxes when one moves the mouse cursor over them. Below, there lies a brief explanation of the project and an additional introductory video embedded. All thing considered, it’s a very attractive presentation, albeit there is a small instance of text-error in the “About the Project” blurb, and the site itself may have not been updated in some time, as the fine print at the bottom reads “© 2013, Stanford University” and the site’s weblog appears to be dead or missing. Still, a very impressive bit of design.

Finally, I visited the University of Houston’s Digital History site. The home page is almost overwhelmingly organised in appearance, with part of the page usefully divided into categories such as “Eras”, “Topics”, “Resources” and “References”, each of which is further split into various related sub-categories such as “Revolution” or “World War I” for “Eras” or “Architecture” and “Controversies” for “Topics”, each of which, on the other side of the hyperlink, is again divided into multiple sub-sections within its own sub-section. Above, there is an intriguing slidable chart by which visitors can track the progress of American history from the pre-Columbian era into the 21st century, but the hyperlinks within the chart itself are unfortunately broken. Again, quite a good effort so far as presentation goes.

Digital History Sites: the Good, Bad, and Okay

Due to some CHAOS regarding my internet connection this past week, this blog is a bit late.

Looking at the Digital History sites listed I found aspects I want to incorporate as well as ones to stray far away from. Firstly, as many of you mentioned last class, the Gilded Age Murder site was by far my favorite. I really appreciated the layout, the overlay of both interesting images and easily read texts. The content was very well organized and easy to sift through. This site had a very professional, and therefore credible, feel to it!

The Valley of the Shadow site was another Digital History site I found enjoyable to search. While different in layout to the Gilded Age Murder site, the simplicity of the Valley of the Shadow site served the same function of easy navigation and access to valuable content. The organization of the “room” format really brought a sense of interaction between the viewer and the information. This site offered another, equally yet different, way to go about this project. For me, it boils down to organizing your content so that the audience can access, navigate, and enjoy the site.

One site that I struggled with was the Emancipation Project. I felt like it too had valuable information to offer but, I was quite bored by the entire layout. I didn’t think that the type of text or colour one uses could have such an impact but it does! I thought it needed something to jazz it up a bit. In addition, I had technical difficulty loading the maps, leading to one of the key goals highlighted in the readings: accessibility. I plan to pay attention to these minor but significant flaws for our own site. Needless to say extra care pertaining to the details of a site goes a long way!

Summer Roasting

Death-defying research!

My girlfriend and I drove around frosty Asheville on Saturday morning, coffees in hands, past some of the older areas of town, and stopped at Overlook Castle.  The house was built by Fred Seely, Jr., who in 1912 worked with Edwin Wiley Grove to build the Grove Park Inn, here in Asheville, North Carolina.  Conversely, the castle at Overlook was built as a private home and has been passed along several owners, the current ones being not very keen on visitors (as evident in the pack of guard dogs behind the barbed wire fence).¹

So while I was taking pictures through the space in the fence, and before the dogs got there, I was able to get these..






More information and photographs of the castle to come…



1 Jon Elliston, “Castle in the Sky,” WNC Magazine, [accessed 1.25.15], < >.


Digital History Sites


As part of preparation for creating our own digital history site, viewing examples is necessary for learning dos and don’ts.

My absolute favorite site was the Gilded Plains City. The narrative of the Sheedy murder trial and the boosters in Lincoln are intricately connected with the layout of the city. Last semester I took Urban Sociology and a course on American urban history. Both instilled in me the importance of geography in urban events/dynamics. Thus, the interactive map feature blew my mind. Being able to click on various categories and seeing what parts of the city housed them provided an invaluable visual of where things took place. In particular, I appreciated getting to see the divide between where the working class and middle class residents lived.

Besides the map feature, I thought that the colors and the text layout of the Gilded Age site is quite aesthetically pleasing. There was a lot of text but it was appropriately divided up with subheadings that made the amount of content seem less daunting. For my site, I am planning on similarly utilizing a large amount of subsections.  I would also enjoy using an interactive map feature, but I doubt I could create one as detailed as the Gilded Age’s. Something to look into.

My least favorite site was that on the French Revolution. The graphics and size of the main page (only taking up half of the screen) clearly dated the site. The fact that, by today’s standards, it is so poorly made hurt the websites credibility; I felt that if the content was worth reading, the creators would have updated the site to look better. Beyond simply thinking that the site looked ugly, I found that the bright colors, font, and various graphics were created a physical distraction from the content. It hurt my eyes to go through and thus I gave up on it rather quickly.

I’m going to keep looking at other sites for inspiration.

Until next time,