Southern Utah University as the Branch Agricultural College: My (Rough) Project Outline

After another session in the archives, I’ve gotten a better feel for the potential topics I can discuss and resources I have at my disposal. I will list off the primary resources I have collected so far:

3 Student made pamphlets called the “The Student.” I have one from 1914, one from 1916, and one from 1919. These three are well spread out, but I wish to acquire the other editions for my use: these were produced monthly, so they’re should be more. I will ask the archivists about this matter tomorrow.

Student Yearbooks from 1913-1919. All of SUU’s yearbooks are digitized on the web.

Iron County Newspapers: the archives have collected hundreds of newspaper papers from the time period, and I have gleamed over them and noted information concerning the renovation of the campus. There should hopefully be more.

1913-1914 and 1916-1917 student catalogs: I would like to acquire the other student catalogs to see if the offered courses have grown in during the time period as the BAC was barely authorized to be a junior college.

Minutes from the Board of Trustees. This will allow me to trace the financial provisions the university received.

I want my website to have a narrative flow to it while also potentially digitizing any primary sources I have.  Having a search index where visitors can see the documents for themselves would be cool to have, but an effort like that would take some intensive permissions and coordination from the archivist. I will approach them on the matter though about the possibility as I think it could be beneficial to SUU.

The narrative of the site would be focused on the development on the school. In 1913, BAC was approved to be a Junior College, and so with that comes new challenges of organizing, expanding, and developing the school. Along the way WWI breaks out and I’ve found a list of students who served in that war, so I could devote a page to students who served in that war. Then, during the Influenza epidemic, I could chart how it affected the school year, provided I find such information. I feel like a list of individuals who passed away because of the epidemic would be an appropriate dedication to them. Having a cohesive narrative of the school, divided into years and organized based on noteworthy events in those years, would be splendid. Furthermore, a timeline charting these events alongside national and global events would provide context for these occurrences and connect the story of BAC with that of the world.

 

This is a rough outline: I’m going to increase the amount of time I’ll spend researching for this in order to prepare for drafting the website. Wish me luck.

 

Documenting My Education Briefly: A Practice with Timeline Creation.

Being raised with a computer wizard as a mother, I’ve become familiar a with different kinds of software, including the Microsoft Office series. The fact this timeline feature is a variation of the Microsoft Excel software, I found it familiar and easy to figure out. I’ve always had issues with Excel, simply because my strength lies more with word and excel’s interface is overwhelming to me. However, I am capable of working through it and I did the same in this case. Everything was self explanatory. I would prefer if I was allowed to upload the media directly to the timeline rather than having to link a URL, but that won’t be an issue for me as I know how to upload all kinds of documents to the internet. 

Not going to lie, It took me a moment to figure out how to get the spreadsheet to appear in the timeline format (I did not review the video from the session I missed before doing this because I was eager to get on the sites and see how they worked for myself.) I did it quickly to get the feel for the software, and now that it’s there, I’ll practice some creativity. Looking at how this can apply to my project, I could document certain events, like which presidents were in charge of the school, faculty who worked there, and chronicle their time at SUU in this format.

Digital History Sites: Lessons Learned from the Success and Failures of Others

For the coursework due January 23, I visited the following sites:

http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/emancipation/

http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/

http://gildedage.unl.edu/

I picked these sites because their subject matters held the most interest for me, and so I felt like I could evaluate their design based on how I was pleased with the presentation the sites offered for these subjects.

Let’s start with my biggest letdown, The Emancipation Project page. The page seems like it was created at the dawn of the internet, with its home page being a picture-less black and blue screen with an ugly page color (I don’t know what color it is) where the text is showcased. The site’s webpage is well organized into a spread table, giving a quick overview of what the visitor can expect, but it’s not interesting to look at: it’s like I’m looking at a colored Microsoft Excel sheet, and that does not invoke imagery of the civil war. Furthermore, inclusion of some information is not explained up front: who is Thomas Clarkson and why is his abolition map included on this site? Sure, I could click on the link and find out, but there’s no incentive to other than the chance of curiosity. The most disappointing thing of the website is my inability to see the information because I do not posses the necessary plug-ins; furthermore, the website doesn’t even tell me what plug-in I’m missing so I can’t download it! The lack of clarification and direction, along with creativity, makes this site a disappointment.

The Valley of Shadows page has creative organization. After you enter the site, you are greeted with three duplicated building layouts with each room being a link to the listed information, while each building represents a different time period. The information is mostly kept in the same place– such as the center room always being the reference center– which makes the site intuitive and easy to navigate, but the inclusion or shift in resources in some rooms is questionable from an outsider’s perspective such as myself: why is the room “church records” used in the pre-war building–or at all for the matter– but in the war and post-war buildings that room changes to official records and Freedmens Bureau respectively?

Once you enter a room, you’re given an introduction to the contents of the room, and are then allowed to click on a link either to search the records or to learn more about them. The former is a cool feature for those who know of family in Augusta or Franklin during the time period, but for historically removed visitors (by which I mean those who either do not have or are unaware of family in Augusta or Franklin) it leaves much to be desired. The site’s purpose though is to be an archive for those who are aware of their history and wish to see it, so for that purpose, I must congratulate it.

The Gilded Age Plains City site is fantastic: the site has a strong theme, well organized, and you know what it’s about from the opening page: it’s centered on the murder trial of Sheedy, and it delves into the story with great detail. It possess an archival search system like the Valley of Shadows, but it also has the information organized in a way so that less educated people on the subject can find it: they have newspapers, cartoons, photographs, and postcards organized into an easy to search format, with the ability to search for the one you want exactly. It’s a fantastic balance. Furthermore, they offer links to related pages which help to understand the history: as I was reading the timeline, I was wondering “who is John Sheedy?” and to my left was a guides and resource widget with “who’s who” as a link. I clicked on it, and I was created with short profiles of each major character in this historical tale and suddenly I was aware of who was who and why they were important for this website. Brilliant design with all the information given to create an educational experience for the well researched and the researching alike.  This webpages intuitive design and strong theme are approaches I will seek to emulate in my own web page for SUU.

 

Southern Utah University’s Special Collections

On January 17th I went into the special collections center of SUU’s campus library and spent the most enthralling hour I’ve had in a while reading through old parchments of the University. I asked for anything SUU had created or what was documented in the years 1914 to 1919, and the archivist went to the back to pull out whatever she could find. I was first greeted with old yearbooks, a good starting point to see into the student body of SUU back in the day. The archivist pulled out more and more documents, and I was satisfied with what was given: pamphlets written by the students which revealed a distrust of a new principal, of The Board of Trustees 1913 to 1918, which detailed the allotted budget SUU was given, hundreds of scans of old Iron County Newspapers, some with stories regarding the university, and course catalogs, one produced by Roy F. Homer, the new principal I mentioned earlier. In addition, SUU has photos from throughout the universities existence; as I walked in they had a digital display of photos from WWII. I did not ask to see any pictures from our research period, but I did see pictures in the documents I purveyed over.

One thing of the most interest was the fact SUU existed back then as the Branch Agricultural College: a satellite school of the U, the archivist told me. This leads me to plan a visit to the U’s archive and see what information they have on the BAC.

I was given two great secondary sources to use: first was Anne O. Leavitt’s SUU: A Heritage History, which was a thick, well written history of SUU throughout its existence, and it was filled with documentation, citations to other resources, and pictures. This book will be invaluable in my research.

The second resource was former SUU president and Cedar City mayor Gerald R. Sherrat’s book “History of the College of Southern Utah 1897 to 1947.” The discovery that a former president was a historian, lived locally in cedar still, published a book on the university, AND “enjoyed talking about his research” (librarians words), has given me a wealth of information that I will try and exploit for my purposes. Looks like I need to review my interviewing skills.

With my light scan of materials, the direction of my research has become clearer: the war had little impact on the university’s attendance as few people already attended it, and it seemed not to disrupt the local community too often. However, during the time period of our research, the BAC was beginning to make some small changes towards becoming their own university, like adding more courses, and undertaking their own renovation projects. Perhaps the story of SUU during WWI isn’t a story of a college struggling with its student body being drafted into war, but that of a satellite university wanting to grow into its own.

A trip to the public library for more secondary sources is in order: I ran out of time to do so this weekend and the library is closed for the holiday. Regardless, the hour I spent in SUU’s special collections has foreshadowed more enjoyment for me.

Perfection is stagnat: imperfection is growing

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