As I have never constructed a digital history project before or even kept a blog for more than two weeks, this rough outline will be just that: rough.
As a lover of micro-history, I think I want my site to be both a collection of small narratives and a searchable archive. I think I want small, personal stories of Kirksvillians and their involvement with World War I and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.
Here are the major materials I will try to incorporate into several smaller narratives:
For the Influenza Epidemic, I would like to somehow weave together the Adair County Infirmary Records, the A.T. Still senior classes who travelled to treat sick citizens sometimes twice a day, and the frat-house turned hospital to treat contagious cases of influenza.
I am not sure where I would like to fit him, but I would really like to have a narrative about any individual soldiers that I can find from the Kirksville area. After I posted to a Kirksville Facebook group, an incredible Mr. Bowers sent me pictures of his grandfather who was in the 35th “Sante Fe” division. Plus, Mr. Bowers has postcards his grandfather sent home from France that he is willing to scan and send to me. After sending a better permissions form, naturally, I really hope to incorporate this personal story into my site. And I hope to have more like it to create a collection of narratives personal to Kirksville citizens.
As far as shaping A.T. Still and Truman State University’s narrative, I think I want to organize it by class year and then within that year, focusing on several individuals. A.T. Still had the “War Babies” class, veterans who were upperclassmen before leaving returned to a special program that allowed them to graduate by June of 1919. They dispensed with all class activities and customs in order to focus on their studies. A.T. Still also had the class of 1921 who were the smallest group of freshmen since the school’s opening. Their yearbook letter says, “Our class is comparatively small in numbers, but we hope to go down in history as the class which was small, but mighty.” In all of this is the thread of Osteopathic doctors being unable to practice medicine in the war because they were not recognized by traditional medicine.
Truman’s Classes are a little harder to peg as of now, but I have faith in my research skills!
As far as an archive goes, I think I want to digitize a lot of photographs that are searchable by keyword. I’ve found that Truman and A.T. Still does not have a lot of photos digitized, and I really want photographs and letters from yearbooks and letters to be searchable by subject matter.
So here is a brief outline of how I am going make my project interactive: I want to pair letters, draft records, and photographs with individual soldiers if I can. (Would it be possible to consult Ancestry.com for individuals? Or do families have the rights to that information?) I also want to make sure my site is available for individuals with disabilities. (Would it be crazy to have students with excellent theater voices read letters from the Truman collection and have those recordings available next to the photographs? I know I am not Ken Burns by any means, but I think it might be a creative endeavor worth testing out.)
Above all, I want to personalize the war’s influence on Kirksville. I don’t want it to be about anonymous groups of “students” and “citizens” but rather named individuals. All things considered, I suppose that makes my blog title a rather ironic choice!