As of yet, both Britta and I have a decent amount of both primary and secondary sources to work with. I’ll start off with some information from Britta and then I’ll provide my own process so far.
Hey there, Britta here, taking over for a few paragraphs. The main focus for my portion of the site is going to be the West Central School of Agriculture. I’m absolutely fascinated by the campus culture of the time period and how the war affected these agricultural students studying out on the prairie of western Minnesota. I am really interested in cause and effect—how the war happening in Europe affected this small campus community in Western Minnesota and likewise, how the campus’ response affected student and staff relationships and the greater Morris community. As you read above, Colm and I are really shooting to create our website with a focus on highlighting certain aspects of our research first and then leading into in-depth detail from that. Generally speaking, I’d like a first page to give brief overviews of WCSA history, the war effort in Morris, and the Spanish Influenza, with a lead in to another page that goes into much more detail regarding how all of these connected at WCSA. I probably will end up wanting a few different pages of in depth detail, though I’ll get to thinking more about that once I have all of my sources complied. I have a vague idea in my head of what this could look like; I’m not yet quite sure what Colm and I can accomplish technology-wise with this website, so I haven’t planned out anything that is too detailed yet.
Currently, I have a lot of information on the Spanish Influenza. The 1919 Moccasin (The WCSA yearbook) has been a fantastic source regarding how the student’s reacted to the influenza; two ledger books from the 1918-1919 school year filled with faculty meeting minutes and newsletters that were sent out to parents give a clear picture of how the administration was reacting to the epidemic. Information regarding campus contributions to the war efforts is also present in both the yearbook and the ledger books, though there is a lot more on the epidemic in each. I have plenty of information on the campus history and both of the primary source materials that I have now give a pretty clear idea of the campus culture of the time period.
I have a lot of information so far, but not enough. I still need to give the Stevens County Museum in town a call to see if they have any WCSA materials that might be useful there. I want to make sure my portion of the site has enough detail to feel complete, and I certainly don’t believe that I am to that point yet. I may be able to find a bit more at the archives if I really dig, but I’m getting to the point where digging around is no longer conducive to my time; I have a feeling the museum archives will be much easier to navigate. Regardless, I certainly feel a little bit better in having a very rough outline of what our website will ultimately look like, even if it doesn’t seem like that much right now.
I have come into contact with a few secondary sources detailing the impact WWI had on the residents of Stevens County, MN. These sources come from the Stevens County Historical Society and are typically concerned with how local communities came together in order to produce materials needed for the young men fighting in Europe. As Stevens County has, and still is, primarily an agrarian society devoted to producing foodstuffs for the rest of America, many of these articles are concerned with producing enough food for those at the front lines, while simultaneously suggesting that those back home eat smaller portions and let nothing go to waste. These sources are quite useful as a starting point because of the sources they cite. By no means is it appropriate to rely entirely upon the information gathered by the SCHS, but it will prove fruitful to examine their methodology as a way to gain a more intimate understanding of the sources they used in coming to their conclusion, as well as the current perceptions Stevens County has about its past.
I have also been fortunate in obtaining primary source material at the WCHS, as well as the local library. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post the WCHS recently displayed WWI artifacts such as topographic maps, war trophies, diaries, photographs, and other useful materials. What caught my attention in particular were the propaganda posters aimed at women, men, and children. In viewing these posters (which I am currently not yet allowed to photograph, working on that at the moment) I noticed a thread tying them together—increased production and decreased consumption in response to the needs of those fighting at the front. I found these to be particularly resonant with even the culture of West Central Minnesota today. Propaganda pieces persuading women to can and dry food so as to ensure maximum wartime production, posters persuading young children to eat every last bite and posters persuading young, able men to leave the farm and go fight were the most recurring of propaganda I observed. There were, of course, a lot of posters not touching on those themes. As such, I want to limit my research to respond to three things:
What themes of propaganda were aimed at those living in West Central Minnesota? (I am aware propaganda wasn’t aimed that specifically, but I have yet to discover where those zones end and begin)
Who was in charge of dispersing and disseminating propaganda? (Even beyond the form of posters and into fundraisers, charity drives, that sort of thing)
How groups reacted to that propaganda? (I realize this last bit may prove too difficult to do, but my intentions are to use statistical methodology so as to determine standard deviation, residual standard data, and r-squared calculations to give me a rough outline.)
I am going to use microfilm of newspapers at the time found at the library, as well as Britta’s findings at the archive to cross reference my hypothesis. Even if I am absolutely, totally wrong in my hypothesis I should (hopefully) be able to make sense of a theme somewhere in the sources and data.
Britta and I are in the early staged of determining what we want the site to look like, but have some ideas. A good indicator of how we want the site to display information can be found here (http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/). The data on global change is bifurcated into two parts, one detailing the highlights of their findings while the other goes into the nitty gritty details of the report itself. This is, more or less, the clean modern look aimed at presenting our findings in an easily understandable manner while also giving our readers the option of viewing our findings in full. Of course our in depth report and findings will be prioritized over the highlights (this is a history project, after all) but given the fast-paced nature of data delivery for sites like Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., we thought this was a good way to catch attention. We know we want to start with an interactive map detailing Stevens County. We find the map to be a more viable option given the manageable amount of data we have on our hands. If this were a more densely populated region it might be easier to segment into a timeline, but because most communities were agriculturally based rural areas we wanted to display that information effectively by showing how those communities came together and what they produced.