Category Archives: WCSA

Research and Website Update

Hey all,

Since I wasn’t in class last week, I thought I’d take some time to update you on where the Morris group is on our site.

I admit that I haven’t done a whole lot lately. I went on a really amazing spring break trip and let me tell you, it was much needed. I was definitely feeling the mid-semester slump (especially because it’s senior year) and my road trip was a fantastic refresher. However, road trip with friends meant little time for school work. I didn’t bring my computer with me to keep my travel load lighter, so therefore didn’t have access to my school e-mail. I naturally didn’t get any research done.

Never fear, though! The museum has been yielding some wonderful sources for me in regards to the WCSA and I’m going to be finishing up research there this week. I’m excited for the last minute resources that I’ll be able to find and I’m confident I’ll have plenty of information to fill up my portion of the site.

Our site doesn’t have a whole lot on it yet, but the skeleton will be completed in the next couple days. I’m going to start writing up some text for the site this week and Colm and I will have all of our images uploaded to a shared online drive by Friday.

Spring break caused a bit of a delay for the Morris group and I do have a lot to catch up on, but now that I’m refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester, I’m confident everything will work out smoothly and as planned.

Stay tuned for more soon!

Weather Setbacks and Research Advances

Drat Minnesota winters for ruining plans and pushing back research!

I was planning to be at the museum researching now. I went in on Friday and was so excited to go back today to look for more.

Alas, my car won’t start. And it’s too cold to walk. And even if it wasn’t too cold to walk, it closes at 5 and I would have barely had time to get anything done by the time I got there (I get out of class at 3:40).

Thankfully, I have materials to work with. I ended up spending my time on Friday going through a lot of pictures. Unfortunately, the majority of them weren’t helpful because the majority of them weren’t dated. There were many pictures from the 40s and 50s and it was obvious to distinguish those from the clothing students were wearing, and in some cases, the cars. However, I could not be certain if many of the pictures that I thought could work for my purposes came from the late 1910s or the early 1920s. With a lack of context, I’m not sure how useful they would be anyhow.

There were, however, a few pictures that turned out to be useful. Mainly, a few very important images of campus buildings. I could place even the pictures that weren’t dated of some of these buildings into the pre-war and war eras of the 1910s because many of them were larger copies of photos in The Moccasins from those years. Pictures with unpaved streets could be dated to the very early 1910s.

With these images, I started to think about my research in a different way–that is, not just focusing on the war itself and its impact on the WCSA, but the WCSA as its own entity.

The 1910s were years of building and expansion for the WCSA. The majority of the buildings that have become fundamental architecture round the UMM campus mall–the central outdoor meeting spot of campus (well, at least when it’s nice out) were built in the 1910s. These buildings that I take for granted as being part of the beauty of this campus that I love so much…this time period marks their beginnings. For the WCSA, they were signs of a bright future, a sign of progress as the campus transformed from a small school that lacked the appropriate resources to be considered a true agricultural school, to a formidable institution of agricultural learning in Western Minnesota. Camden Hall, which houses the division of the social sciences on the current UMM campus, and Spooner Hall, UMM’s upperclassmen residence hall, were built in 1912 and 1913 respectively as a girls dormitory and a boys dorimitory. Behmler Hall, which now houses all sorts of administrative offices (including the Chancellor’s offices) was built in 1918 as the WCSA dining hall, replacing an large farm-house style building from the Indian Boarding School days.

As cheesy as it might sound, I found myself connecting to these buildings even more after recognizing that they were built during this time period that I am researching. Never before have I stopped to consider the history of these buildings as closely as I am now.

While I’m excited to get back into the museum to see what else the museum archives have to offer–there are three big boxes in the archives that I can’t wait to explore–I’m really thrilled to add this bit of information regarding these buildings to my research. I’m kind of astounded that I didn’t realize that all these buildings were going up at this time in the first place. After all, I knew the general history of when the WCSA was founded and that many of the buildings on the current UMM campus went up in the decade or two after that. Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious, I guess. This general history, though, is exceptiaonlly important in understanding  the nature of the WCSA as a growing enttity during the war years of the 1910s.

A further bonus? Colm and I are free to put up any of the pictures from the museum up on our website as long as we credit them for the images. I’m pretty thrilled about that. :)

Now I just need to make sure I can get my car jumped by Friday…I’ll have the whole afternoon free for research and don’t want it to go to waist because my car wont start!

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!